"The First Duke" - Genesis in conversation with David "Kid" Jensen about the "Duke" album, March 1980. Interview transcribed by Alan Hewitt.DJ: And here I am in Studio D of Shepperton studios, a fantastically large studio but most if it is taken up with the fantastically large amount of equipment that Genesis have in here at the moment as they prepare for a great British tour which is about to get under way in about a week. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks are with me right now and maybe Phil you can tell us something about the rehearsals that you have been doing now, for the last couple of weeks? What is the purpose, mainly of the rehearsals...?
PC: To make us sound professional! (laughs)
DJ: It has been a little while since you toured the UK.?
PC: Well, the last thing we did in England was Knebworth which was in '78 but we spent most of 1978 on the road in America and Europe and we didn't do anything in 1979 as far as live playing was concerned so, it takes a little while to get the old thing back into... well oiled you know?
DJ: You have got all the lights rigged up and all your sound balancing equipment there. Is it purely about getting the sound right that the rehearsals are all about, Tony...?
TB: No. I mean, to start off with it is just about getting the playing right; to remember the old songs and to learn the new songs and to rehearse the two members who aren't on the LP who are Chester Thompson on drums, and Daryl Stuermer on guitar, and now we are sort of getting to the stage where we are rehearsing the lights a lot more and any effects that we might care to use an also thinking about the order of the set and trying to play it in one.
DJ: How long, in fact do the rehearsals take altogether, Mike...?
MR: At this time it has been about a month... two weeks music by ourselves and then two weeks with the lights and the full rig.
DJ: And is it a fairly disciplined thing where you come in every day at regular times and go through the repertoire, as it were?
MR: Yes, some of us are earlier and some later! (laughs) and we always start off on the first day at ten thirty and by the end of the fourth week it is about twelve!
DJ: I would have thought that the rehearsals might almost be as gruelling as going out and playing themselves if you do it that intensely?
PC: Yeah, well at the moment the set takes about three days to get through, because there is a lot of working out to do. And yeah, day after day. I mean, the first song in the set we start to play at twelve and the old throat isn't exactly warmed up and so you can be a bit throaty by the end of the day. It is easier to do a gig, actually.
DJ: We are going to play some music now from the new album which is called "Duke", and this is a track called "Duchess" and all three of you wrote this song so Tony, I shall ask you who the "Duchess" is...?
TB: Duchess? Well, she is a singing star really, it tells the rise and fall of a female singing star and I just thought it was a fairly contemporary thing really because there are a lot of women coming to the forefront in the rock scene at the moment.
DJ: Phil, you mentioned that 1979 was a quiet year for the band and I seem to remember hearing rumours that Genesis were close to splitting up. How close to the truth were those?
PC: Well, no it wasn't really quite as close as that. No, well it was purely a fact of that I got separated from my family and I spent most of that year trying to sort all that stuff out and Mike and Tony, quite sensibly, did their own albums rather than making any rash decisions about what was going to happen because I was going to go to Vancouver as we talked about earlier. We all wanted to do individual things anyway and that seemed like a good enough time to do it, so we did plant to do an English tour somewhere in the middle of last year and circumstances didn't allow it, so...
DJ: You guys must be well pleased with the reaction to the ticket sales; as soon as it was announced there were queues in the streets miles long. Did that surprise you at all?
TB: Well a little I suppose. I mean when you have been off the road... I mean off the road effectively in England for about two years and you haven't had any albums out you don't know if people still remember you a bit, really so because this business is very fickle and it is very heartening because all the tickets were supposed to have been sold within ninety minutes, which was great.
DJ: Genesis, of course, have a history of really lavish stage productions and that obviously goes back to when Peter Gabriel was in the band as well, but since then you have spent a lot of time really putting effort into the stage production is that going to be the same for this tour round, Mike...?
MR: Yes, I think so. However, with this tour I think it is going to be slightly simpler as opposed to what a lot of bands do which is build a large production they are going to use and then say "where can we play?" we have gone the other way round this time and said we are playing these places like a lot of small towns in England, Scotland and Wales which a lot of bands don't play and then we have said we will do what we can do in these halls. It is obviously slightly cut down because of these smaller halls.
DJ: How many dates, in fact are you playing altogether? Do you know? At the start it was over forty...?
MR: Yes, it is about forty.
DJ: Is that the most gruelling tour you have ever done of this country?
PC: As a tour I think, yeah but in the old days when we used to do that kind of gigs with quite a few gigs on the trot; three hundred... no two hundred gigs out of a year and it went through a period where we didn't do the tours of England and we haven't toured England properly since 1977 so it is quite along one for us really.
DJ: With all this equipment to maintain, and instruments to carry round, how many people go along with you on a tour of this size?
TB: It varies, and I am not sure how many we have got this year I mean last year when the show got so involved and as we did a lot of festivals and large halls in Europe we were carrying around about 70 or 80 people and it was quite absurd. This year it will be an awful lot less.
DJ: I want to come to some more music from the album "Duke" and this is a Phil Collins song called "Misunderstanding" and perhaps it would be best if you told us about this particular song...?
PC: Oh, it is boy meets girl; boys loses girl it's an old American heartthrob song.
DJ: This is the first album from the band in along while and the title, "Duke", is that significant at all?
MR: Only in the sense that it was a working title for a large section of the group written stuff while we were doing it and it seemed to sum up the mood. We think that this album is a lot more direct and harder edged than we have had for a while and "Duke" is a word like that and so we used it.
DJ: People have reacted to the single in that very way, that it has a harder edge to it and sounds almost un-Genesis-y..?
MR: Yeah, and that is great in a way and what one is always trying to do is sound different to what you have done before and in a group situation like this where you have been going for quite a few years... grey haired...
DJ: It is ten years now isn't it?
MR: It has been more actually, it's been quite a while.
DJ: I notice on the single actually on the label; there are three little fat men with rather large heads and I am wondering who these guys represent? Is it the three of you?
MR: Yes, that's us! (laughs). The artwork for the album was done by a French artist called Lionel Koechlin and the actual figure, "Albert", who is the figure on the front cover , that is a smaller version of him. The idea was actually taken from a children's ABC book and there are lots of little figures like that.
DJ: So; he is not the Duke, then?
MR: I don't think so, no.
DJ: You went to Sweden of course, too for the recording of the album... why Sweden?
PC: Well, Mike and Tony had both done their own albums there and Dave Hentschel, our producer, he liked the studio a lot and the facilities are fantastic actually. The studio is set out in a very nice way that you can actually separate yourselves from each other; sound wise and still be able to look at each other which is not at all easy in some studios.
DJ: It is the same studio that Abba used, isn't it?
PC: Yeah, but I don't think they have ever used it because they could never get in there! (laughs) Because it is always booked. They were across the road when we were there.
DJ: Mike, your solo album, and Tony's, was recorded in Sweden and that seems to be doing really well in the charts and the single from it as well. Maybe you could tell us about "Smallcreep's Day", where the actual title comes from? It's a bit of a concept album, isn't it?
MR: Yes, I basically did side one about "Smallcreep's Day" which is a book I read a while ago now actually a book that Tony suggested to me a long time ago. A lot of the material was short sections and it seemed a good idea to join it all together and make a long song. So I needed a lyrical idea and so I went back to the book.
DJ: Right. The next song we are going to play is one of your songs and it is "Alone Tonight", was this originally written for your solo album or did you write this with the band in mind?
MR: No. Last year worked out quite well because we did... I think it is always a problem when you have a situation where you are writing material and you are saying; 'Is this for the solo? Or is this for the group?' and what we did last year was do the solo albums, write them, finish them and then start writing for the group album so there was no kind of overlap. I did this for the group one at the time.
DJ: There seem to be a lot of group songs on the album, and I wonder how that is done with you three who are obviously very proficient musicians and you have your own activities, you have solo albums and Phil of course with Brand X. When you write together how that happens...?
TB: It does vary a little bit from track to track but there are two main ways - the most successful way is definitely when somebody gets an idea maybe something very simple maybe nothing more than a short riff or a chord sequence and then we just jam around on it for hours on end which can be very boring for anyone else to listen to but for us; we kind of develop that, and examples of that on this album would be "Behind The Lines" and "Duchess" actually. The other way we do it is by combining bits by one person and another and allowing the whole group to sort of arrange it; and "Turn It On Again" is an example of that.
DJ: When you are writing together do you have to hire a big hall and get all the equipment out again, or do you... is it done around a piano very quietly...?
MR: This album was written in Phil's bedroom ! (laughs). It is quite true actually, because we all live quite close to each other around Guildford way and he has got a music room there which we went to take a look at. It is great but it is a little bit small for all of us and we kept walking past his bedroom which is a great size and none of us dared say 'what about that room?'
PC: As I never go to bed, I thought... (laughs) 'let's move the bed out into the spare room' and there we were!
DJ: How do you decide what you are actually going to put on to the album, I have often wondered this, because the three of you obviously write an awful lot and when it comes down to it, is it simply a vote as to what goes on the album in the end?
PC: Yeah... well, the thing is it all comes down to the fact that we all feel stronger about some songs than others. I mean on this album, I put two of my songs for the first time. Up until last year I didn't write anything on my own and last year I wrote a lot of songs and so we decided to use two of mine and Mike and Tony.. we started rehearsing three each of theirs and because of the amount of group stuff, there was only a limited amount of time and so we decided to have a couple from each and from day one down to the finished album it is down to what tracks excite everybody the most irrelevant of who wrote what, you know?
DJ: What about the songs you are going to play on the current tour, because your repertoire is so vast now, how is that decided?
TB: Well, with the new album we take what we think we want to play and what will sound good and in this particular case I think it will be all the group material we might do one or two of the other songs but we probably won't and then we look back at earlier material and decide what will fit in best with that and what will contrast with that and compliment it and what we feel like playing and this time I think it is mainly songs from "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" onwards; "A Trick of the Tail", and "Wind & Wuthering" and not much from before.
DJ: Now that you have got that resolved and you are out on tour, will you still be concentrating on solo projects?
MR: We never really look ahead very far in terms of planning. Our manager has a sort of ten year plan but we tend to go two months ahead. I think this album has shown us in fact, that by working outside the group; Phil has always done it; all the time he is a workaholic, but it is really the first time that Tony and I have worked outside the group and it has really helped coming back to the group with a lot of fresh group material and a new burst of energy. And having learned that I think we will carry on doing it but the problem really is when there is time, because the group is very demanding time wise so we will just fit it in I think.
DJ: And after the UK tour, Phil... what plans is it - off to Australia or America or somewhere like that?
PC: We are going to America. We've got a few days off and that is enough time for the gear to get across the water and then we will be doing a six week tour of America and after that we come back and I want to start... I want to do my own album.
DJ: Brand X or completely solo..?
PC: A solo thing, yeah... (long pregnant pause then nervous laughter) Brand X have got an other album coming out, actually which I have got nothing to do with I just sort of went back into the camp for a little while and then came back out again. There's my album and then I think we are going to try and do another Genesis album before the end of the year but basically we are touring for the next three or four months. We haven't been on the road for such along time and I am looking forward to that and the solo thing is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and so I am excited by that so yes, things are looking up for me.
DJ: So, Tony, we have time to play one final song from the album and it is "Cul De Sac" and so I will ask you about this song and how this came to be...?
TB: Well, it was originally written to be about the demise of the dinosaur but in fact it can be slightly more general than that and could be about the demise of the human race or whatever, you know. The instrumental elements in this song are, I think, perhaps more important than the lyric it starts off with a long sort of soft-ish piano based introduction and it is a sort of a very grandiose sort of production and very different than anything else on the LP.
There you have it folks, another interesting trip down Memory Lane, I hope you enjoyed it and my thanks to Steve Barnet for sending in the tape of the interview to us here at TWR.