"A little trip down Memory Lane" - "The Genesis Archive 1" interview disc, part two. Transcribed by Alan Hewitt.
INT: How do you look back on those early Genesis albums?
MR: I mean I think I have always felt, and I know it might sound like I am just saying this, but it is true - I have always felt that each time we have done an album a large part of it, if not all of it, is always better than the one before. I think you wouldn't do it if you didn't think that. If not better then it has just got something new to offer and I think you always learn, you improve faster or slower. Who is to say what "improvement" is, you know? It is personal taste all this. I felt and I often remember albums by the writing sessions and "Nursery Cryme" was a bugger to write! It was not an easy writing session and we were at Tony Stratton-Smith's house and we battled away and it didn't come and it was a fight which made the one afterwards, which was "Foxtrot"... am I right? I haven't missed an album out and that one was a much better writing session and then "Selling..." was a little bit harder apart from... I would say "Nursery Cryme" and parts of "Selling England..." have been two of the hardest albums to write. The rest has been pretty easy I have found, since then.
INT: Do any individual songs stand out in your memory?
PG: Yeah, "Supper's Ready" was a struggle to get written and to get recorded and it felt like we had done that and got to the other side and it was like climbing a hill, and each time you would get to the top you would see that there was another peak to climb and I did feel with that one that we were rolling down the other side of it. I think it had a good sort of flow, in terms of its own internal structure where it was quiet and loud; then fast and slow. I still to this day love journey songs ones that go through different transitions and I think that that was the best journey song as such, that we had written at that point.
INT: Was the creative process enjoyable?
TB: There were times that were great fun but a lot of it was difficult. I remember the making of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" being a very traumatic experience all round; the problems with Peter and everything and we were having to rush and we had to rush the end of it because we ran out of time and we were supposed to be touring in fact, and we didn't; we had to cancel shows and everything because we hadn't finished this record. So that was quite difficult. I think... a lot of arguing, a lot of difficult moments. With a combination, it was very heightened emotions. There were some wonderful moments; fantastic feelings and then moments of sheer despair and it took a very long time for us to get going and so all that period was very despondent. But I am really proud of a lot of the stuff we did there I think. I listen to those albums and particularly "Foxtrot" and "Selling England" and "The Lamb..." and they were really revolutionary albums; totally different from anything else that was around. You know, the only things that were comparable were groups like Yes and Pink Floyd but they are different again because they were trying to do something different with the music, I think. I am very pleased to have been part of that, I suppose.
INT: Then came the costumes! Do you have a vivid recollection of Peter's red dress and fox's head?
PC: Yes, I remember it was the stadium in Dublin. He was starting to do things even before the costumes, probably because of the time we spent tuning up so he started telling stories and because of the long instrumental passages when he wasn't playing the flute then he had to do things, and so he became more of a showman. This culminated, of course, in the costumes and the first one was the fox's head with the red dress and then we were on the front page of Melody Maker the following week, you know and you put a zero on the end of our earnings and things went from £3 a week to £35 a week and £60 a night to £600 a night and things started to change quite drastically from that point. Certainly Peter's theatrical side gave people, at last; something to write about and take photographs of and it did change the way the music press perceived us, because music is very hard to describe, but when you have got a picture... And of course what happened as a result of that was that Peter became the focus of the band which, at first, I didn't think too much about: I was just glad that we were all getting somewhere, you know? But I think that long term, we started to get a bit pissed off. Say long, long term this is... we are talking about 1972 I joined... 1970 I joined and this was 1972? Pete was only singing from when I was in the band for four years and yet when I took over singing in 1975 I was still being called the "new boy" in 1989. But anyway, the costumes... they made a big difference to our earnings; they made a big difference to the way we were perceived by the press.
INT: What was the idea behind these costumes?
PG: Genesis used to pretend to be democratic and if I had gone out discussing a lot of this presentation and things then I would have had no hope at all of getting it through. I wanted to do it; I thought it would be good for the band as well but I think there was a feeling with some of the guys that we should just be doing music and not bothering with any of this visual distraction. However, I thought it was quite useful in terms of getting stories told; in terms of emotion and strangeness in the performance and I know there were a lot of things that are seen as a source of amusement now but with "Watcher Of The Skies" I was wearing batwings and UV makeup holding UV tubes and things and these were things that at that time hadn't been seen in a rock context so there was a certain shock value and now it seems impossible to conceive that that would be shocking now, but walking on the stage in Ireland on to this old boxing ring in a red dress, that was something that again, provoked a good reaction but it wasn't always a popular move.
INT: The "Slipperman" costume was probably the most bizarre...
PG: Yeah, with my inflatable testicles [laughs] and yeah... Again it was a pretty gross caricature and really difficult to sing in [laughs] as I discovered afterwards it's the practical things. Because the politics didn't allow me to do a lot of rehearsals in costume otherwise everybody would have got to vote on some of this stuff. I had to sort of suck it and see and learn a little as I was going along and some of the things clearly didn't work.
PC: Well, this was when I started to get a little bit sort of frustrated because the show was very definitely... it all started off from a very musical place and it remained musical but the fact... I felt that I could sort of play it like this and people wouldn't notice because they were just watching what "happened" and I, as a musician, as opposed to a presenter of the complete thing. I was a musician, not totally into the lights and the sound being one complete unit and the visuals all being... I was never really into that side of it. So, I started to get a bit frustrated you know; because you would come walking into a dressing room after a show and then the crowds; the record companies would come in and say: "Great show, Pete great show!" [laughs] and it was like a one man show, you know? Of course it starts to frustrate you a little bit after that and that used to embarrass Pete, I think, he knows that the singer doesn't do everything in the same way that I know when I was singing, even now in my band. I suppose I am more responsible for everything I do than I was in Genesis but you know it's not the singer who does everything, but you are the person who is singing the words; you are the link between the band and the audience so it's a natural assumption I guess but it got a bit frustrating and...mind you, that had nothing to do with Peter leaving as far as I know. He left for totally different reasons but the Slipperman was, in some respects; the last straw [laughs], the visual last straw!
INT: Peter, you seem to suggest that "The Lamb..." tour was a difficult experience...
PG: I mean, don't get me wrong, when "The Lamb..." worked well I enjoyed that a lot too, there were some good moments in all of it I think. At the time we were challenging quite a few things, although Genesis became a core establishment group when we were doing things, we were trying to break rules and I remember having one conversation with one record company guy and he said: "Listen, we can sell Folk music, we can sell Rock music but you can't put the two together and you don't want classical chords..." So, there was a real sense that with some of the stuff we were trying to break down barriers and that for me was always interesting and exciting. The Prog Rock Dinosaur people don't associate with trying to do anything differently but there was a lot of that.
INT: What are your memories of "The Lamb..." album and tour?
PC: Well, each album was bigger than the one before which was a great way to be, you know: you felt that you were constantly building, and in America we had reached a huge cult status; we were still a cult I think. I think our first gig was in Chicago with "The Lamb..." I'm not sure, I think it was and the album had yet to come out; it was just that we were there a little bit ahead of the record and nowadays, of course, that wouldn't happen. And we went on stage and played the whole of the double album, you know and at the end of the album we finished with "The Musical Box" probably and a couple of other things... and "The Knife"... and people scratched their heads. The real fans said this is something to get our teeth into; the slides and costumes and stuff but I remember it being a bit of a sort of... rather than playing the stuff that was more concise, finished applause, you know the songs that had been proved very strong stage songs; we were suddenly playing; and wanted to play; all of us; we all wanted to do this and play this whole thing with very few breaks that nobody knew and I don't remember feeling at any point during that tour that this is a success to be honest. I guess Europe followed after that because Europe obviously, was the place where Peter left and contrary to popular belief; the last gig was supposed to be Toulouse, and Toulouse got cancelled due to lack of interest, so just before he went on stage at... I think it was Besancon in France, that we found out just as we were about to go on stage that that was the last gig. So we had kind of built up to Toulouse, you know, and we though Toulouse is going to be the last one and then suddenly just before we went on stage in Besancon they said "It's off, tomorrow night, so this is the last show" and it was a bit of an anti climax.
SH: It was plain that we were going to lose Pete pretty soon and so we embarked on that album I think with a certain amount of sadness that we were going to lose our lead singer, and so to some extent it was the potential swansong for that band and nobody knew what was going to happen after that; if the band could survive the loss of its then "star" - and Peter used to get reviewed quite separately from the band and sometimes, they just reviewed Pete's performance because I think that people assumed that he was responsible for writing everything with the band, and I know that it used to frustrate the band a lot, especially with the thought of losing him, so it was something to be survived. I think that Pete won't mind me saying this, because he knows that I adore him and the work he has done in so many ways, but it was difficult and we had to try and establish our own individual identities so... I remember us rehearsing this album in a place called Hedley Grange, I think it was called anyway, it was this almost semi-derelict house. Led Zeppelin had recorded there and produced some stuff, some pretty good stuff. I remember them saying "We think that place is haunted, what do you think?" and I used to try and get to sleep at night and there was the sound of scratching on the walls and it was rats; it was rat infested and then the day I left, I walked out of the bathroom, having done my morning ablutions and the floor fell away! I walked away two feet and it went - if I had been standing there a second longer that would have been "Bye, Hackett, bye!" So in some ways I couldn't wait to leave actually! [laughs] That album was very difficult: we did a lot of touring and we knew that Pete was going to go and they kept us touring for as long as possible [laughs] to put off the inevitable.
INT: There was a lot of tension within the band at this time...
PG: Yeah, I think there was and... I think... well "The Lamb..." there were a number of things going on. I had been contacted by William Friedkin who had just done "The Exorcist" which was a hot film at that time and a really well made film; and he had great ideas for sort of revolutionising Hollywood and bringing in whole new teams of people who had never worked in film before and he wanted to get Tangerine Dream to do some music, and Philippe Drier who was one of the founders of Heavy Metal in France, to do some designs and he wanted me in to work on ideas; story ideas and visual ideas, and for me that was really quite exciting, and to this day it is something that I enjoy doing, and so I wanted to make time for that and the band at that time; the individuals hadn't really taken on external projects and after I left that became commonplace, so it was seen as a dereliction of duty [laughs], disloyal activity. Also it was the time of the birth of my first child and there was a really rough birth, and the hospital didn't think she was going to make it, she spent her first month in an incubator.
Now to me there was no question of priorities between a living being and a record and we were in the middle of making "The Lamb Lies Down..." and I was spending a lot of time and they... I think Phil had a kid but the others really weren't appreciative of all that family side of things which they now are. Their lack of openness and understanding of that situation was a deciding factor for me as well. So, I think it was those two things and the fact that internally in the band it was; I was getting a lot of ideas on the keyboard and Tony was very possessive of his territory and it felt... I had just had enough of the music business so I really wanted to get out and do something else but didn't succeed very well on that except for the first two years when I was mainly growing vegetables and children!
INT: What was the reaction when you said that you wanted to leave the band?
PG: I first talked to Tony Smith and it was a very black depressed reaction in the sense that everyone thought we were quite successful at that point, but we had built up £100,000+ of debts which were seemingly enormous at that time, and we were just beginning to get clear of all that so I think there was the thought that a lot of years of work had gone in on the musical side and in terms of people's livelihoods in terms of buying houses for families and all this practical stuff and we were just getting to the point where that might become a reality, and I wanted to get out so that was another sort of layer of guilt, but they then sort of persuaded me to stay on and finish doing the tour which would take us to the middle of '75. I guess it was somewhere around the summer or autumn of '74 that I decided to quit, and that was very hard because I think Tony Smith felt it was very important that I didn't tell people that I was going to leave and so I felt very dishonest really; being there and not being clear what was happening but it was put to me that that was going to give them a chance to recover and get something else going before the news broke. So, I reluctantly agreed to do that, but it was very difficult and depressing somehow that we knew things weren't going to continue but the audiences didn't. The last few gigs in France were very down.
INT: What did you feel about him leaving, Phil?
PC: I mean, the first I was aware of it was... a hotel room in Manchester when I think him and I ended up sitting down in a room and talking, saying that he was leaving at the end of this tour. But the reasons that I know he left was that because he was offered during "The Lamb...", the writing for "The Lamb...", he was offered this opportunity of working with William Friedkin who had just done "The Exorcist" which was huge film, and a very good film, and Friedkin was obviously a very bright guy and saw Peter as someone who he could collaborate with; but not to split the band up; just to collaborate with and of course, we dug our heels in and said: "No; you either do that or you do this!" - stupid really. But we were too young and it was too early for people to have too many outside projects although I was always given free rein to play with anybody I wanted to and encouraged to do so because I used to bring different influences into the band, and I introduced the band to Dave Hentschel who produced some of the albums later. That was viewed as OK because it was harmless but with someone like the singer going out and maybe there was jealousy ...who knows? Now looking back on it, it was "either him or us" and so Peter said; "Well, OK - him!" [laughs] because it was a great opportunity so he went and left, and then he came back three weeks later because William Friedkin didn't want to split the group up. You know; he didn't know if that collaboration was going to work well enough to split the group up so Pete came back but we knew that it could happen at any time at that point, and of course, he was the first to have a wife and children and we weren't ready for that either... if you have a problem pregnancy - which I think that Jill did you know - it's the kind of stuff you don't know about at the time unless you had been through it. So he was the first one of us to experience that which I didn't realise at the time.
INT: Do you have any regrets about leaving Genesis?
PG: No, no none at all, it was definitely the right thing for me to do and it was clearly good for them too because it brought Phil out front and gave everyone a bit more space, I think. I always look upon that time as a healthy part of growing up.
INT: When Peter left, were you worried about the future of the band?
PC: No. My memories are that we kind of... right, we'll show 'em! We'll show 'em that we are more than just a singer with four guys behind. You know, that was the I kind of thing and I remember [laughs as he thinks] quite stupidly; valiantly saying; "Well; we'll just become an instrumental band!" [laughs] I mean I was playing in Brand X at the time and this was a chance to "get rid of all the singers [laughs] and just play, mate!" That is what I would have liked to have done at the time. Tony and Mike were... "No, no we have got to have a singer".
So we actually, when he finally did leave, and I remember having those discussions at Hedley Grange where we wrote "The Lamb...", but the conversations we had later, after he left and by that time I did realise that we did need a singer - and that's another story.
INT: Back to the Box Set, what exactly have we got on each disc?
TB: Well, the first two CDs are "The Lamb..." live, and the third CD is more love stuff which is other songs which weren't recorded live with Peter singing, so we have songs, particularly from "Selling England By The Pound", songs like "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" and also "Supper's Ready" which was what you might call the key track of the period, which we never had on record with Peter singing, this is a version which was done on the "Selling England..." tour which again, sounds really good I think. Then we have... in this period there are in fact only three unreleased tracks from the period one was "Twilight Alehouse", which I have mentioned. Another was "Happy The Man". These are tracks that were not on proper albums, but were released. This was a single released around the time of "Nursery Cryme"... not our greatest hour I don't think, but there you go; it's there and we also did another single version of "Watcher of The Skies" which was another popular song from this period and we did this single version which was intended to be released in, I think; America but it was never done, but the version was actually a completely new recording; so that's on. It sounds interesting, I think. They finish off the third CD which I think other than that is other live songs of various types, you know and more songs than I have mentioned but...
The fourth CD is the real archive one I suppose which starts with something we played from that first tape with Jonathan King, which we have sort of done in reverse chronology actually because the sound quality is a bit better at the front of the disc [laughs] because that first tape, the only version we could find was my version of it, which was a copy of a copy, of a copy and I don't know what it was running at probably fiften-sixteenths, you know! It is pretty shaky but it sounds quite nice in its own way and it has got character. The other stuff on it is demos and bits and pieces of songs which have never been heard before by anybody and other demos of songs that have appeared elsewhere. There was also a BBC Night Ride programme we did back in that period which contains some songs that were not found elsewhere, and so we have slipped some of those in as well, really. People probably know that there has been a bootleg available of that but this will sound better than the bootleg obviously because it is taken from the original tapes and not from the radio.
INT: How much does it represent the story of the "Genesis" of Genesis?
TB: It's a bit of a higgledy-piggledy thing in that sense to be honest. It is bits and pieces that we feel are some of the highest quality stuff that we have that has never appeared on proper Genesis albums before, and hopefully it represents different eras quite nicely - that was the other thing we were trying to get across. Fifty per cent of the archive thing is alive version of "The Lamb..." which never appeared at the time, now this was a very good... it was an adventurous live show when we did it, with so many bits and pieces; slides and costumes and special effects. I would say there wasn't a single show where everything went right - it was just that complicated and musically there are certain songs in the set which you wouldn't have played live unless you were playing the whole thing, but there are other ones which just developed and took on a feel live, and I think it was really good. Coming back to these tapes we only had one tape to choose from and that ran out before the end and so we have had to manufacture a version of the last song, but it has a certain spirit and some of the improvisation bits had changed quite radically from the album. I was very pleased with the way a lot of it sounded, and it was very exciting and the only thing we had to tamper around with was the voice. I think at the time Peter was wearing all these costumes and there was one in particular which he used to wear where he couldn't actually get the microphone anywhere near his mouth, so not surprisingly that had to be redone. It was interesting comparing the voice of twenty five years ago... twenty years ago actually, we're not that old and the voice of today.
INT: Fans will probably be the most intrigued by the new version of "The Lamb..." What did you do with it?
TB: Well, what we went back to the album version, redid the voice, and remixed it now of course, remixing it; it sounds so good well... it does to me, it does to us, and you kind of want to remix the whole lot. "it" which was the track, wasn't necessarily the best track on the album or anything, but it does sound really good, and I think if one could remix some of those early songs and when we did all the remastering recently we decided that we weren't going to do any remixes because it just didn't feel right once you start. It's like a can of worms, where do you stop? But having done this one song you do feel that there might be one or two key songs that would be quite fun to have a go at, because it does sound so good. In fact the version of another song on this particular record, "Twilight Alehouse" which was only ever released as B-side, we actually remixed that as well because it wasn't a very good mix, it was a rushed mix we did at the time and again, it sounds... it sounds really good.
INT: So, did you find it a little frustrating listening to these tracks with the benefit of hindsight?
PG: It is frustrating in some ways because we learned a lot more about how to make records, and how to make things feel good particularly in rhythm which is very important to me as an old drummer, and although I think Phil did some fantastic playing, we didn't always know what tempo best suited a particular groove and it is a really subtle chemistry and it is something that you learn with experience but the material at the time would have benefited I think, if we had known then what we know now.
INT: Why did you decide to redo "The Lamb..."?
PG: They found this old "Lamb..." tape and I think "The Lamb..." and "Supper's Ready" are things that I did with Genesis which I am most attached to, and when I heard it I thought that the vocals sounded like shit and part of it was just jumping around in the masks, so I thought if it is going to go out, I might as well try and sing it as it was intended to be sung. So there was an interesting experience just like going back to your childhood. It was funny actually because there were certain things that I remembered. I used to have arguments with the band at the time about the pitching of certain things which were pitched too high and now one of the things with ageing is that your voice drops, so you gain some low notes but you lose some high, and so things that were virtually impossible or genuinely impossible at the time of singing them were even more so - and so all the old frustrations came right back! [laughs] Why didn't the bastards drop the track... [laughs] That was interesting but it was just like looking at old photographs or something, just reliving your youth.
INT: Do you still think The Lamb... would make a good film?
PG: I spent some time working with this man Alejandro Jodorowski who directed a film called "El Topo", which was a kind of spiritual cowboy film: very rough and violent in places, but very strong and it made a huge impression on me and we devised a script together, and in the last two or three years there have been three or four people that have been interested in pursuing it as a film so maybe it is something that will still happen, but probably with some changes. I had a look at the old script again about nine months ago, so who knows?
INT: Personally what are your favourite parts of this collection, Phil?
PC: My favourite parts are the instrumental parts, I used to look forward to them every night: "Anyway", "Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats", "Riding The Scree", "The Waiting Room" particularly. Those parts to me were very free and anything happened, and it was real ambient, some of that was very ambient music and I like that the best.
INT: Is getting back together to promote this Box Set an enjoyable experience?
PG: Yeah, it is, it's just like going back to school and seeing what has happened to all the people you were in class with twenty years on. There are still the same... like the relationship with your parents and there is apart of that relationship no matter how much you grow up which is always locked in time. Your mother is worried about your handkerchief when you are seventy years old and she's ninety five! [laughs] The same sort of thing applies with musicians I think, the personal stuff is still there just as it always was.
INT: Would you consider reforming the early Genesis line-up for a tour?
TB: Well, I wouldn't do it as part of the promotion for the Box Set. We would do it just for the hell of it but don't know. Mean, re-learning all those songs and I don't know if I can play that fast anymore ! [laughs]. No, well Peter can't get the high notes anymore as I said before, we could lower some of the keys, I suppose. I don't have any particular desire to do it, it stands up pretty well, and of all our early recordings it was one of the better ones you know, and it is pretty much there if people want to hear it and I think it is very unlikely that we would do it, I don't think Peter would be very keen to do it for a start, and I don't think it would happen. I would do it if it was happening; I suppose but I'm not rushing into it.
PC: I would say yes if I can play drums, yeah. I'm not interested in singing. I have said this for a while actually since I knew this would come up in conversation at some point and if it was deemed; if it was a short tour with the five of us; for fun; it's not a reunion tour; it's not a farewell tour; just for fun to play "The Lamb..." and some other stuff, then I would definitely do it if I could play the drums, yeah, which is obviously what I would be doing, Peter would be singing; yeah, I would do it. Just ask me.
PG: No, I think this is as far as I am going to go probably on this but it was quite fun but it took me about twelve years to get out of being "Ex - Genesis" and so I don't particularly want to slide back in, but at the same time I am much more emotionally detached as I was, and I think I can enjoy it in the same way. It is like an old reunion with childhood friends it's that sort of thing and so it has a different sort of feeling now than all this sort of gloomy personal politics that were going on at the time so that's good but...
INT: Looking back, how do you like to sum up this time with Genesis?
PG: Well, a healthy part of growing up is what I usually say there, but I learned a lot; I had a lot of fun; some of it was miserable and I left [laughs] so it has given me a lot of good memories and a good learning experience.
INT: Why does the music from those early days still have its fans today?
PG: I get surprised that it gets carried as an influence. I amused to fifteen years of bad-mouthing Prog Rock so I don't know, if these things go in cycles and though some of it wasn't great and there were some really embarrassing moments there; there was a heart to what we were trying to do. The other thing that I think made a difference was that Genesis was a song writer's collective unlike most bands which are a collection of musicians; the writing was what was ultimately important to us and so I think that is what has given us a long life.
Thanks to Jack Beermann for providing the discs.