"For the benefit of the tape..." - Los Endos interview, 18th November 2007. Interview conducted by Anthony Hobkinson and transcribed by Alan Hewitt.
Los Endos are:
DS - Dennis Stewart: Vocals
MC - Martin Clarke: Bass, guitar and backing vocals
JAO - John Alexander O'Neill: Drums and backing vocals
AP - Alan Pearson: Keyboards and backing vocals
GL - Gary Lucas: Electric and acoustic guitars
SB - Stuart Barnes: Sound
RF - Ronaldo Fagarassi: Lighting
MC: For the benefit of the tape, Stuart has entered the room...(laughs)
TWR: Looking at your website, it looks like the Hokey Cokey with regards to band members leaving or joining. Can someone give me a history of the band?
AP: Yeah, it was the result of going to one of the Genesis festivals in Guildford and seeing all of those guys... In The Cage and G2 playing in various places in Guildford and I got more interested in Genesis then than I had been for a long time and I finally got back into listening to music. Some time later I started to play keyboards again and some time later again I met up with Nigel Betteridge; ex vocalist and who also had similarly got back into listening and playing. We just advertised and we ended up with a Brazilian guitarist called Ernesto and a guy called Karl from the Kingston area who had bits of bass pedals and bought a double neck. John came along as a complete surprise and blew us all away when he walked in, listened to a track and wrote down the music as he was listening to it and we went "that's amazing - he's in!". We went through a few changes. We changed vocalists about three times Ithink; we still ended up with the same one! (laughs) Nigel left and came back and left again. Then we got another guy in called Mike and he was there for a while, but it wasn't really quite working.
At that point Ernesto the guitartist left and Gary came back in and that was a revelation. We started to get stuff played like Steve Hackett rather than a Brazilian version of Steve Hackett.
TWR: So when did Gary come in?
AP: It's at least two years ago.
TWR: So basically, we are looking at only one surviving band member which is you Alan...
AP: If you think about the basics of having keyboards, drums, vocalist, guitarist... John was a founder member because he came in right after Nigel. He is the only drummer that we've had and I'm the only keyboard player and everything else has changed.
TWR: John, your CV is pretty interesting. You have done a lot of session stuff and musical stuff, so why Genesis?
JAO: I was actually looking fro a Steely Dan tribute band (laughs) and he (points to Alan) phones me up and said that he has this Genesis thing and did I fancy trying it, and I said alright, I'll give it a go and that was it. I wasn't actually looking for one, I just kind of ended up in it.
TWR: So had you heard much before you joined the band?
JAO: Oh yeah, I know all the stuff.
TWR: So what about the rest of you? Are you all big Genesis fans?
MC: I was thinking about it on the way here actually. My first Genesis album was Nursery Cryme and I bought it via mail order because they were getting around the retail price and that was literally as it came out. I bought it from Virgin and I thought it was quite cool. I also bought a Gentle Giant album at the same time and if there was a Gentle Giant tribute band, I would be in it!
TWR: Are you all Genesis fans up to Wind & Wuthering, which is the kind of sense I get, or do you go beyond that?
JAO: I gave up on them after Wind & Wuthering, to be honest.
MC: Met too.
JAO: A lot of people did because there was a changeover there, where they lost a whole lot of people, but gained a whole bunch of new people. I was listening to it at school in the seventies...after Gabriel left, it was kind of the end of it.
TWR: Is the set list chosen because of the passion you have got for that era as to opposed to commercial reasons?
MC: We just picked it because it's easy to play! (laughs)
AP: One of the resons we picked it was because I was trying to get into a tribute band and I had this whole list of stuff whcih they don't seem to play and unfortunately it takes a long time to learn this stuff, unpicking it and then sticking it all back together again. So we kind of started with a set list that I played along with and you have got to be prepared to take a couple of months to put new tracks together. It takes a long time.
TWR: And do you agree amongst yourselves on most of it or are there big rows about what goes in...?
GL: Because we all live so far apart, getting a rehearsal together is a logistical nightmare!
TWR: In terms of rehearsal, how often does that happen?
GL: Not often enough really. A couple of times a month. It takes a long time because we have had some changes in personnel and when you lose somebody you have to take time bringing new people in. Like when I started, everybody seemed to know the material an awful lot better than me, because I liked Genesis when I was a teenager but I wasn't a devotee, and so I didn't have all the stuff worked out already. People come in at different levels like when Martin turned up he already had every note 'programmed' into his head because he was such a fan as a kid. I think, given the complexity of what you have to do, martin got his head around it very quickly.
TWR: What's the difference between a tribute band and a covers band?
JAO: I don't like the word 'tribute'. That's a death sentence (laughs). A tribute is a wreath you sort of hang on a door when somebody has died! (laughs) We aren't doing it because of that, we are doing it because it's fun and we like the music, so for me, the word 'tribute' is the wrong word. We just do it for fun.
TWR: So, what have been the biggest technical changes over the last few months?
SB: The biggest change has been the new mixing desk. I have been out and bought one which has a bit more on it than the previous desk; more of a clean signal path and more control given to me which means I can give the audience more to listen to.
TWR: And with the lights?
RF: They are still building...we are about half way there basically, but we need some more.
AP: I think it is important to say that it is a democratic band. Everybody has an equal part to play and the lights and sound are as important as the keyboards or drums and so it is important to realise that Ronaldo and Stuart are equal parts of the band because that's what makes the production, so we were lucky to get these guys when we did.
JAO: The thing is, they influence the musicians as well. In my previous life, working in Theatre, the techies...none of them are musicians; the guy at the sound desk was never a musician and they didn't have a clue! They used to have the most incredible amount of equipment and yet they still managed to make it sound as if it was coming out of a biscuit tin. It was incredible. You go to see a theatre production and they focus mainly on the voice; the band...there might be 20 people playing in the band, but it sounds like it is coming out of a cheap tin radio, whereas these guys are actually musicians as well, so they can hear the way it is supposed to sound and they know the music, which helps a lot. We are not just dealing with knob twiddlers like so many of those guys are.
RF: We are as enthusiastic about the music as well, which I think is important. We are not just technical people, we are fans of Genesis, since the age of eleven for me; A Trick Of The Tail was the first one I heard when it came out, and that is still my favourite era, so that makes a difference, I think. We all put our own energy into it and our own money into it and so we all have our own say in it and it is totally democratic; it isn't just a case of ... "oh you're just the technical guys, it isn't anything to do with you..."
TWR: What are your plans for the future? You have a gig on 16th December...
GL: The Loaded Dog in Leytonstone High Road. It's gonna be an experience!
TWR: Is that a local venue? How did you get to play that one?
DS: It's a fairly local venue for me and so far we seem to have played all our gigs in Essex, which is certainly not intentional, it just happens to the that those are the gigs that have come up at fairly short notice in each case, whcih has suited us in a way, and has given us the impetus, it has made the band a lot sharper.
TWR: How does it work? How do you get the gigs?
MC: A combination of knowing the venues, which is what has happened so far, and a case of goign to find venues and seeing if they will give us a gig, and we are very early in that process, because up until now we have been concentrating on getting the music right and each change in personnel has been a setback in terms of being 'gig ready'. I have to say, Dennis is a miracle, really! He is very modest and when he turned up for the audition, he was just here for the sheer craic and 'I'll get to sing a bit of Peter Gabriel and walk away, how cool is that?'
JAO: He didn't bank on getting the gig! (laughs)
MC: Dennis' acheivement is awsome. How many rehearsals have you had with the band? Not even ten, is it?
SB: He'd only been with the band a few weeks before we did The Cauliflower. The first time I met Dennis was at his first gig!
DS: I admit I went up to the rehearsal purely to have a go because a mate had told me about the band and he told me the singer had left, and so I did the audition. My life's ambition was to get up there and sing some Genesis... it was like "Jim'll Fix It", you know, and so I went up to do that, and I got a phone call two days later asking me to join.
TWR: It is that playing pubs, people stumble in and see you playing Genesis, that they are expecting all the Phil Collins stuff, and you are playing things like In The Cage and Cinema Show...
GL: There are all kinds of risks...
JAO: If people are going to come deliberately to hear it, then they know what to expect. The thing is, even if they don't know it, it just comes across as something people are willing to hear anyway, because people don't hear live music these days and when they actually HEAR somebody playing something and it sounds good, they listen anyway. They think it is something special because they have probably never heard it before.
And that is where we have to leave it folks. Thanks to the chaps for taking the time to speak to TWR and good luck with the next gigs!
Los Endos are playing at The Grey Horse in Kingston, Surrey on 23rd Feb 2008. Tickets available online from www.wegotickets.co.uk.
More band info available at www.losendos.co.uk.