"Over to you… Humbert!" - A not entirely serious interview with Rupert Hine and Anthony Phillips about the Wise after the Event album in 1978. Transcribed with an increasing sense of amusement by Alan Hewitt.
Photo: Carol Willis/Hit&Run
OK folks, I have been threatening to release this interview for a while now and I thought that with the 25th anniversary of the album rapidly approaching it might make for some interesting (and amusing) reading for you all. The interview was originally intended as a promotional tool for the album hence the introductions referring to the various record companies at the beginning God alone knows if this was actually ever used to promote the album but it is by turns, amusing and informative and I thought it about time that The Pavilion readership got to see it so… over to you, Messrs Phillips and Hine!
R H: Good afternoon and welcome, I would
like to introduce you to Anthony Phillips.
A P: Good afternoon and welcome, I would like to introduce you to Rupert Hine.
R H: I am enormously grateful and able to pass on the introduction to Robin Lumley.
R L: And I would like to welcome you at great and very little expense to this half hour of conversation between Phonogram recording artist Anthony Phillips and his producer; Mr Rupert Hine.
(This introduction is repeated twice referring to Arista Records and Passport Records)
R H: Anthony…
A P: Yes, Rupert
R H: Having worked in the past with such people as Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins what made you finally get away from and choose new people and finally perhaps lead to the likes of Michael Giles and John Perry?
A P: Well…I asked Michael and Phil, and they wouldn't do it! No… perhaps I should give a serious answer to that! I was fortunate enough getting the services of Michael Giles and John Perry. I wanted to work with different musicians and get away from the whole "Genesis" tag and I had always been a fan certainly of Michael's; John I must confess at the time I didn’t know too well and due to my management I was able to use these delightful fellows.
R H: So it came more from listening to people like Michael Giles from days of yesteryear with the likes of King Crimson and those bands?
A P: That's true, yes.
R H: Did you think at the time that his contribution… or did you hope it to be comparative to his work with those earlier groups?
A P: I hoped that with Michael being what I would call if, you will pardon the expression; a "total drummer" yes, I hoped that Michael would be able to contribute on all levels to the arrangement. Unfortunately, the amount of rehearsal time that we had was such that we weren't able to take many songs from scratch but nevertheless I think that his parts added a lot.
R H: Many people might take Michael Giles' presence on the majority of tracks as being a move from the first album towards being more rhythm track orientated and less in the area of solo guitar and piano pieces…
A P: I think that that was an inevitable decision really from the first album which was criticised as being a bit inaccessible; rambly and instrumental. I can write in both styles; I love writing instrumentally and vocally and it was a conscious decision to try and get this thing going and get a bit more rhythmy. I think it is a bit more of a case of stating he rhythm, the first album isn't devoid of rhythm think it is simply a case that the songs actually demand stating that rhythm rather than just understating as on acoustic guitar.
R H: I think there is, listening to the album now… there are some interesting comparisons with albums that Michael has been on before which illustrates that the man was playing very much what he would have liked to have played and it is quite natural the MacDonald/Giles comparisons.
A P: Yeah, you can't tie someone like Michael down, his style is very individual the other thing which is good is that his personality is subordinate to the music which is important. He doesn't try and put himself all over the track and play in all the gaps which can be the pitfall of a virtuoso…If I may be so bold as to say so, Chris (laughs).
R H: Did you find it difficult at first working with another bass guitarist after having worked almost to the exclusion of anyone else, with Mike Rutherford?
A P: Yeah, I found it was very difficult to start with for the first two days although I wouldn't tell John because it wasn't just that it was the fact that I had done all these demos with the tracks in acoustic form and it really could have gone any way and one of the tracks: Pulling Faces, which DID become the powerhouse I hoped it could be initially Mike and John said… "No, this isn't working; we've got to stop this" and we arranged it very lightly. It was very much feeling our way for the first week and I found that I had to get used to; having been used to Mike Rutherford certainly. It was very difficult to get used to certain aspects of someone else's playing, and that works both ways; John didn't know what I was on about and you gradually establish a rapport and John's playing was quite sensational without a doubt!
R H: Well… with a slightly subjective view as I'll admit to being the producer of the album …
A P: Where? Where?
R H: Watching that happening it was finally noticeable on mixing where you do finally hear things like the bass lines and drum contributions being,…if I may use your term… "melding" of all melodic and counter melodic structures which go through it which are often not relevant in rhythm track terms you usually find that you have to relate those simplified parts at rhythm track level in a more complicated way at top wave level and it is not always necessary.
So, having completed it now perhaps the other major change from the first album, would be the arrival of many vocals. How did you feel about that originally?
A P: Well, as you get older… no… I was very open about it. I wanted definitely to have a go, I am not too keen on many solo albums where there are guest artists who keep popping into the studio because that can lead to a feeling of a lack of cohesion ,you know the "essential" personality creeping through . I certainly haven't got a good voice; technically in any way but it can be effective at times expressing certain emotions and moods and one was very open about it. If a track didn't work and it helps when you are working with good and honest people it is fairly obvious and you scrap it. There are many things that I feel now I would like to re-do again and certainly at the end of the vocal week I was singing much better than at the start and thought "damn, if only I could do them all again!" I think that by and large it came out quite well. There are one or two tracks where the big and powerful voice would have made more of a dramatic impact but perhaps it might have sounded less original … I don't know.
R H: I think there is an extremely interesting blend between an emotional… a voice that is capable, finally of putting across emotions but without ever verging on the melodramatic which is the one danger of any emotional performance which I suppose is eternally arguable either way by the subjective listener.
How did people like Gilbert Biberian become involved?
A P: It was a friend of my producer; Rupert Hine… wonder if you know him? They had worked together in the past and he was introduced to me as a possible conductor and I went and auditioned him and he waved his stick around madly for half an hour and I said that's certainly not good enough…no, he was excellent! Gilbert was always in command; particularly conducting the silent track!
R H: Is Robin Phillips related to you?
A P: Yes, Rob is a fine oboe player but unfortunately he doesn't really practice enough which is his problem. He became the best oboe player at Charterhouse by a long way and seems to have slightly lost his musical ambitions at university now. Rob popped down and played some oboe just on a little link with lots of crazy sitars.
R H: It was nice to see your old friends Vic and Humbert brought out of the archives to play on one track.
A P: Well…yes Vic and Humbert have a lot of faith in their excellent rhythm section. Perhaps I should say at this juncture that they are from a new Close Shave band called "The Excrement" and actually hail from Biggleswade. They are musicians of a highly symbolic nature and I think they will go along way…. Downwards!
R H: Certainly as a producer involved in the making of many albums the number of times I have used both those players I think is almost three thousand times this year I have done sessions with those people and every time they have turned in a remarkable performance, whether it has been their own kind of music or Dvorak (laughs) they are definitely dynamic…
Peter Cross …changing the subject wildly…who did the album sleeve for both your first album; The Geese & The Ghost and your new one: Wise after the Event is he a personal friend of yours or did it come about through knowing the music first…?
A P: Yes, Peter is a very close friend of mine and I gave him even the vaguest demos at the earliest possible opportunity and that's the way I like to work because if you can build up the cover at the same time at the same time as the music even though there are inevitable problems such as tracks being cut up at the last moment, that kin d of stuff .I think if you can do it that way it can lead to so many interesting ideas which can grow together. Certainly Peter helped me in all sorts of ways in formulating ideas for lyrics some of them quite inane like the whole sort of golfing idea ; golfing on to the moon and that sort of stuff which is quite silly but I don’t think I would have thought of things like that just off my own bat. Peter is an immensely talented artist; he is immensely resourceful …he is quite conventional in some respects, for instance he is a brilliant landcsape artist and re-creator but it is what I call his "Twenty First Century Creatures" these extraordinary little animals and fellows which keep appearing in strange guises.
R H: We did achieve fifty one minutes, sixty six seconds' worth of music eventually.
A P: Yes, it's quite impressive.
R H: Yes, it was the last six seconds which were really the hardest, because we kept on getting it tucked under the label and eventually we found the idea of having on the record a little note saying : "for the last part of the track, peel back the label and also if you can dislocate your automatic system on the record player; push the needle over manually with your thumb and of course there is the real risk of static getting into the pickup and then you can electrocute yourself"
Any big ambitions?
A P: Err… my dream is to one day play Old Vic in Shakespeare (In best Monty Python accents)
R H: How sweet!
A P: Tell us a little about your poems comrade… Err… now that I have made lots of money, I have bought my old mum and dad a small 'ouse (still in Monty Python accents)
R H: How sweet, I bet they were delighted?
A P: No they ain't, they was in a big 'ouse before. It was the Major's idea you see …
R H: Are you likely to do any touring connected with this album? Obviously there are going to be a lot of problems like anyone would know from the Mike Oldfield albums where there is a whole mass of overdubbing on it and putting it across in a live way…do you see….
A P: I don't think that this album is quite the problem that say a Mike Oldfield album would be because it definitely falls into the category of orchestrated Pop and because there aren’t vocals all the little intricate sounds are so important I think one could do this album with seven or eight musicians but it is still the kind of music which demands attention and I think the timing to start touring has got to be right. There has got to be a public which is coming to listen to that music an not just to make a lot of noise and gyrate and expect just to jig along because it isn't that type of music and I think you have to wait until you fostered that interest .
Certainly from my own point of view, in terms of concerts; I would like to do a lot more intimate.. of what you would call "Classical" orientated stuff, twelve string solos and stuff as well as well as giving way to the usual preconceptions of the Pop audience and just stick in sort of heavier numbers. I think that is the graveyard of many groups, actually . I am quite prepared, even though it is frustrating not performing and some of the stuff is well suited to live performance, I am quite prepared to wait until the right time because I think that the total commitment to touring is completely wrong… well, from my point of view its wrong because I think endless tours of playing the same material night after night has got to be like playing the New World Symphony every night on stage which would be incredibly tedious and I think when you do a concert; each concert should be something special. That might sound a bit cliched but every time you play it should be something special and not just going through the motions and I think if you tour too much it is bound to be like that. As far as I am concerned, doing many different things as far as the writing is concerned; and doing film stuff hopefully, and orchestrating and teaching still…it is just one other aspect of the music.
R H: Eventually one will be in the position without wanting to make the parallel twice unnecessarily …I can obviously remember the first Mike Oldfield performance of Tubular Bells and what was a literal performance of what was on that first album and it created a big music business; press ;the production did well in the national papers; the concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and that did for him and that album such an amazing job in terms of publicity maybe because the Queen Elizabeth Hall was the IDEAL place for that kind of music so perhaps that's a comparable one…
A P: I think so… it is somewhere in between where you play small clubs where people actually do listen and you do get a feedback from the audience somewhere between that and classical concert halls is where I would like to play.
R H: Good acoustics are also essential for your sort of music…
A P: Well, absolutely.
R H: I know one can say that about any band when you are not talking about bands that have primary body rhythm function, shall we say; first live… You are talking abut the act of "listening" and hope that through those songs and arrangements feeling the emotion and complexities and that seems to be the problem with any live performance.
A P: Well, I don't want to sound intellectual about it but it isn't the kind of music you can listen to and get much out of as background music or accompanying music and I think it is the kind of music that appeals more to the higher senses… to the emotions than to the more immediate things.
R H: Well, we shall await that with baited breath. We have some ideas here about collaborations and you have already mentioned that you have already been involved in writing for a film. Is this an area that you would like to pursue?
A P: Yeah, I think the whole juxtaposition of music with other art forms is amazingly interesting certainly films… I have no illusions about films the way most people; most film directors use music is not my ideal at all. That is the sort of second reality, you know it comes after the footsteps and I have no illusions about it. However, it is absolutely fascinating that when you can create a separate entity out of the combined forces of the two…and I have also been lucky enough to have to put music to Macbeth; the highlights of dialogue in Macbeth which is a forthcoming project and that was absolutely fascinating it was incredibly exciting; almost frightening what one managed to achieve by it… not that I want to compare the music in stature to the literature because for me it is the finest stuff that has ever been written. I think there are immense possibilities that remain untapped. It has been done…sure…Classical composers have juxtaposed and done a lot of work with Shakesperean topics but there has not been much exploration of that within Rock.
R H: How did it come about that you did the original music for the early Rag Tag & Bobtail and Woodentops series that seems a strange combination I think you must have been nine years of age at the time…?
A P: I think my whole life had been leading up to that, actually. It was when I was at Prep School and I had a group called The Spiders and we were playing there one day and a promoter came down and he was giving a lecture on Twelfth Century Potholing in the Shetlands but he also was , in fact a film producer ;Luigi Feccotti was his name and he was so impressed by our performance, we were in fact doing a short version of War & Peace - just a five minute single version of that and he introduced me to his partner: Luigi Salami and I suddenly found myself writing this music and we orchestrated it for two rattlesnakes and a warthog and backwards accordion.
R H: It was one of the first times I had heard a warthog used in …
A P: It was brilliantly allegorical…
R H: It was the contemporary context which one found the surprise.. I mean the rhythmic recording of the warthog which was also strangely autorhythmic certainly in the context of Rag, Tag & Bobtail.
A P: I would say to summarise that it was the Sine Qua Non of…. Indeed it was …(Laughs) it was the Sine Qua Non!
R H: In much the same way that words don't come easily to describe your musical endeavours at that time do you have absolutely no words to say about equipment?
A P: Err… for what? (laughs)
R H: Yes.. I should QUALIFY that… yes… equipment… non-sexual apparati used for the aid of musical projection…perhaps even on record…
A P: (in mock voice…again) I played heaps of guitars and trouts and kidney machines we did have some of them that was right up… and a lot of pedals ..I did play a lot of pedals…
R H: Were they attached to anything ? (Laughs).
A P: (laughing) Rear mud guard
R H: Well, (trying desperately not to laugh)we are going to look forward … in terms of a live tour in seeing some of the equipment you DO use. The idea of pedal controlled mudguards, certainly within the context of your music is certainly an interesting idea. Do you ever play any ethnic… more ethnic instruments and any less connected to the Twentieth Century?
A P: I did actually study music at the Guildhall albeit in a part-time capacity . I studied Orchestration; Harmony; Counterpoint for guitar. I also had lessons for piano and bagpipes.
R H: Is that where you wrote your concerto for bagpipes and… (laughing) rear mudguard?
A P: The idea for a concerto for bagpipes and rear mudguard came to me when I was on a tour of a Tomahawk factory in Wiltshire and I suddenly thought how wittily symbolic and poignant is all this and I thought well…perhaps this would be the best way for me…impressionistically speaking to express the innate symbiosis of the symbolism in the final tableau.
R H: Have you found your Guildhall and your Tomahawk training useful in more contemporary fields of music?
A P: Well, the Tomahawk is a great help. I've done a few producers with the Tomahawk.
R H: Ah…I see…it is more a help in the administrative sense than in the…
A P: Yeah…you could say administrative …aggressive I would say…people don't agree I mean they don't have the chance to agree…I mean I don't wanna debate about it
I have judiciously edited the final sequence of this interview because as you can see…it ultimately became VERY surreal but I hope that you enjoyed this flavour of it.. see… The Pavilion interviews aren’t alone in having their "Moments"!