An Interview with Tony Banks transcribed by Alan Hewitt.
This interview is from an unknown source but was recorded by a fan some time during the course of the band's 1978 tour...
INT: Here I am talking with Tony Banks, probably the world's finest keyboard player...
TB: I'm certainly the best keyboard player in Genesis (laughter).
INT: Your records always seem, all the Genesis records seem to contain a lot of music; at least twenty-five minutes a side and not many other bands do that. Is there a reason for that...?
TB: Well, just that we have written a lot of stuff and we like to include as much as we can and the last three albums actually have all had spare material that we haven't been able to fit on the LP simply due to length and if we could have it we would like the LPs to be even longer really.
INT: Is that why the "Spot The Pigeon" EP was left off from the "Wind & Wuthering" album?
TB: Yeah, we had two spare tracks from the latest recording as well.
INT: Oh, do you anticipate that "And Then There Were Three" will top the rest of them in terms of sales overall?
TB: It definitely will. Just from the European response that's the best we've ever had by a long way.
INT: The single; "Follow You Follow Me" is already out in England and a top ten hit...
TB: Yeah, and the album is number three... but forgetting about England where we have always done pretty well for the last four or five albums and in places like Germany, France, Belgium and Italy in fact all the European places which have done amazingly for us. Relatively in terms of the size of the country, I should think that the States is one of our weakest areas although we do well in Canada and there are places like Japan and Australia, which are places which we have never played.
INT: What other music do you listen to?
TB: I listen mainly to classical music I suppose which seems to be on the turntable most of the time but I have some old favourites like The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, things like that and you know, there are occasionally one or two new things that I like but I don't often come across them.
INT: Do you find anything you listen to having an influence on your writing?
TB: Well, I think everything you listen to has an influence on your writing to some extent you know it could be the chord sequence or the melody line, or something that makes it strong and I just remember it. I have never lifted it obviously but all these things, just by memorising them you do build up a whole catalogue of ideas which does, I'm sure, influence the way you look at things.
INT: A lot of people don't know that Genesis as a band, has eleven albums, not counting a couple of "Best of"s...
TB: A couple of those were live and we tend to think of this as our ninth album which is for me... we properly started with "Trespass" and "From Genesis To Revelation" was a somewhat different exercise. We were trying to write songs to please other people rather than ourselves and that's not to say we didn't like them - we did but we were trying to write songs which we knew other people would do in fact and that was a somewhat different thing. With "Trespass", we recorded that having been a year on the road and all the songs on that album we played during that year and we had developed into a very different kind of band by that stage and also, all the songs had been transformed. I mean, a song like "Visions Of Angels", we originally recorded that for "From Genesis To Revelation" but it didn't work at all well, and so we said "leave it" and we left it for the next album and by the time we played it on the road and recorded it for "Trespass" it had completely transformed into a completely different song.
INT: Speaking of "Trespass", Anthony Phillips was the guitarist and John Mayhew was the drummer, this was before Phil and Steve...
TB: The original four people were; Peter, Mike, Anthony and myself and we had various drummers who came with us, it was a different thing we would just try to get drummers who would do the job for us and to begin with we used friends; Chris Stewart and John Silver and then John Mayhew was a kind of professional acquisition. When Anthony Phillips decided to leave, because he just found the whole thing too much for him; playing on stage and things just got too nervous for him I thought that was the end of it really because it seemed such a serious blow at the time. But Mike and Pete were very keen to continue so they persuaded me to continue and I said "Ok, but for God's sake we have got to get a better drummer" and so we did; we got Phil. And in fact we went around as a four piece without a guitarist at all and we wrote songs like "The Musical Box" and things. Then just before we made the next album; we got in Steve because we had decided that a guitarist would give us more flexibility and with having no guitarist, Mike and I developed a lot as musicians because we had to take over the role of guitar between us. Mike had always played a lot of twelve string even in those days and so it wasn't too big a deal for him, but for me what I started to do was use an electric piano through a fuzzbox on top of my organ. I think I was probably one of the first to use more than one keyboard and I did this purely as a way to play the guitar parts on songs like "The Knife" for example, where the guitar part was very important.
INT: You first used the Mellotron on "Nursery Cryme"...?
TB: Yeah, although there was a little bit on "Trespass"; there was an overdub. We hired one for a day and I used that on "Visions of Angels" and "Stagnation".
INT: About your next album can we talk about that.. Along what lines is it...?
TB: We haven't really thought about it although I have written a lot of stuff already and Mike and Phil have as well. I would suggest that the songs maybe not as compact as they are on this album but that's just my feeling; I think it is unlikely that they will be as short as this LP. It is very difficult for us to say what we're going to do in advance, it's not until you get into the rehearsal room and start playing and see what people have got. There is one area which we didn't cover on "And Then There Were Three" although we did cover a lot of other areas, was we didn't cover the instrumental area which is something we are all quite keen on so we might get back to a bit of that as well.
INT: Are there any future plans to add another permanent member other than yourself and Mike?
TB: There are no plans to do that, no. I think that from the point of view of writing, we won't want any more than just the three of us. From the point of view of augmenting on LPs that is something we have talked about for the past three or four albums but we have never actually done it apart from using extra instruments. You know it is something that is quite attractive to us but I don't know. It's also quite fun not to have any extra people because you can try and create all the sounds yourself. I think it is very unlikely that we will add anyone else as a permanent member.
INT: The title of the new album; "And Then There Were Three" implies someone's departure from the band, and of course it is Steve Hackett we are talking about. What happened? Could you go over a little bit why he left the band?
TB: As far as I can gather, he left because he wanted to have more of his songs if you like on an album and on the earlier Genesis albums he has always been a contributor to the songs but I would not have suggested that he was not one of the major contributors on the Genesis LPs. And he was wanting to contribute a lot more which meant that Mike and I would have to contribute less and I think he felt that the situation was getting to the point where it would never be quite flexible enough to have as much as he wanted. He also having done one solo album, he was getting very into his solo career and he's into that side of things. And we'd had a problem before trying to decide and making certain that we went straight into making this "And Then There Were Three" album and he wanted to do another solo album before we did a new Genesis album which didn't excite us very much because we didn't have very much of a desire to make solo albums. So there was obviously a bit of friction in that kind of area and he just decided to leave during the making of the live album and he said he was definitely going to leave and at that point it didn't really come as much of a shock.
INT: There were four excellent musicians and songwriters doesn't it present a difficulty having so much talent in one band?
TB: Yeah, it's a problem when you have that many writers in a band and Peter left too because he wanted to get more material out. In those days it was Peter, Mike or myself who were the major songwriters and then there were Steve and Phil who added a certain amount. That was fine for "A Trick Of The Tail" and "Wind & Wuthering" because Mike and I sort of expanded as song writers and Phil did a bit as well but only a small amount and Steve just felt that he wanted to become a major song writer and that was the main reason why he left I think.
INT: The song credits said "All titles by Genesis" it didn't say who did what and I assume that Peter did most of the lyrics...
TB: That's not true actually, it's a wrong assumption. I mean most people assume he did most things. I think he probably wrote more lyrics than any other individual wrote but both Mike and I have always been involved with quite a lot of lyrics apart for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway which was almost totally Peter's lyric but musically the albums have been... In the days if "Trespass" we credited it to everyone because it really WAS everyone and I think it started to stop being everyone pretty soon after that actually. It was individual songs like "Harold The Barrel" which was Peter's and "Firth of Fifth" which was mine and "Harlequin" which was Mike's and it got a bit silly in a way and I felt that we should have gone to individual credits a lot earlier actually. I wanted to do it on Foxtrot because that was definitely the first album where it wasn't equal contributions. "Supper's Ready", the lyric was by Peter and the music was... well definitely Peter and I were definitely the strongest musical contributors to that but it was something that evolved with all of us and quite a lot of pieces in it are variations of other pieces within the song such as "As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs" is a variation on "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" and the idea of doing it in that particular style would have been a group decision the whole idea of putting sections next to each other without necessarily repeating; going back to an earlier section and that is really just an extension of that technique.
INT: Daryl Stuermer used to be Jean Luc Ponty's band...
TB: Yeah, we needed a guitarist for the road and so we kind of spread the word amongst a few people and it was actually Alphonso Johnson who suggested him and we considered bringing in a bass guitarist and having Mike do all the lead and Mike went off that idea; he probably felt he wasn't quite up to it. It was just a recommendation. We auditioned about eight guys after having gone through various LPs and tapes and things and we finally auditioned about eight or ten people, about four of whom were English and Mike did all the auditioning and he said that Daryl was far and away the best.
Some interesting comments there from Mr Banks I think. Thanks to the unknown fan whoever it was and to Mike Jackson for providing the recording in the first place!