“The Anniversary Road Trip“ - TWR talks to Mike Rutherford about his autobiography and the current Living Years tour and to Andrew Roachford, Tim Howar, Luke Juby and Gary Wallis about the new look band. Interview conducted at the Rhyl Pavilion and Floral Pavilion New Brighton on 12th and 22nd February 2014. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt and Stuart Barnes. Photographs by Stuart Barnes and Alan Hewitt.
Well, Stuart and I survived the worst the weather could throw at us and we arrived in plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of Rhyl before making our way to the venue for the scheduled interviews with the band. First up for interrogation this time was Mr Andrew Roachford…
TWR: Well, Andrew, it has been three years since you joined the Mechanics. That has seen a new album, and a LOT of miles on the road, what has the reaction from the audiences been like?
AR: Amazing, it has been amazing. You know for the first couple of gigs I was wondering what it was going to be like and I’ve got my own band but I was wondering what it was going to be like fronting another band with a different line up and the people have lived with these songs, with the Mechanics stuff and they have been amazing.
TWR: You have done quite a few festivals as well, how do festival crowds differ from the likes of the one here tonight?
AR: In places like this it is a more serious “going out” sort of occasion and people are much more reserved initially whereas a festival crowd has come to have a good time and they’ve already had a few drinks in ! (laughs). We played the Rewind Festival in Scotland and from the first song they were going crazy! (laughs). I think when you play these kind of places its more of a listening kind of gig and people take a few songs to warm up.
TWR: And now you are out on the road for the twenty fifth anniversary of The Living Years album, how does it feel to be performing such an iconic album?
AR: It is quite surreal actually, I was listening to that stuff way back when and never thought I would end up playing it! (laughs) And it was really two great artists; Paul Carrack and Youngy so you have to sort of respect that and find your place within that, you know and it has been a challenge but I like that. And Mike is an easy going character and is fun to work with and I thought he would be a lot more serious and straight laced but he is fun and an instinctive guy and I have learned a lot from him.
TWR: And you have the compilation which has the new track on it, is that any indication… tell us a bit about the new track…
AR: Yeah, that came out of a session where we started a few tracks and Mike isn’t the kind of guy that goes in with the idea of making an album he just writes and then decides what are we going to do with these and we didn’t have any idea about what we were going to do with these and it seems to work quite well you know, you can usually tell when something is good or when something is a lot of effort and this one came together like the writing for The Road album pretty much.
TWR: How long did it take you to put The Road album together?
AR: I mean all in all, I was in and out a few times over a four month period and we were working with Tim as well so it was probably over a year by the actual time on it was a lot less.
TWR: Have you been writing with Mike recently? You have the new track on the compilation, is that an indication that there might be a new album soon?
AR: I think that would be a good idea, but you would have to ask Mike. It is in the air, yeah it would probably be about getting back into the studio.
TWR: I think I remember you saying to me back in 2011 about striking while the iron is hot, and you have effectively spent the last two years getting the audience back after a lengthy lay off and I think the audience and you guys are ready for each other now.
AR: Yeah, it takes a while for it to sink into people and for them to get their heads around it and this tour is an indication of where we are at today and yeah, I think you are right, I think we are ready for each other - we have become acquainted! (laughs).
TWR: Is there a chance of any new stuff that hasn’t been recorded yet being performed tonight?
AR: Yeah, there’s the track off the compilation: When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground, we are going to perform that but apart from that, no. We are concentrating mainly on the Living Years stuff on this venture.
TWR: And then once this tour is over, what are your plans?
AR: My plans are to do some more shows. I sort of stopped to do this and I shall do some more dates, do Scotland and maybe even Liverpool again, that’s a good gig (indeed, Andrew obviously took my hint as he is playing Eric’s Club in Liverpool later this year and yours truly intends to be there!).
TWR: One thing that fascinates me, you are so busy, maybe not Mike so much now that Genesis are on hiatus, for people who don’t have a “plan”, there must be a plan…?
AR: Yeah, there is always a sort of loose plan and Mike and I will check each other’s diaries and see if we are going to do something when will that be and so there is a loose plan.
Our thanks again to Andrew for taking the time to speak to us. Next up is Tim Howar making his TWR debut…
TWR: How have things been going so far?
TH: The first day of rehearsal went fine, second day was Ok, third day I got this cold and then we got here and we had a day off in between then we had a full day’s rehearsal from about noon til nine and then the cold came back and Tony Smith said this to me a long time ago because we were talking about this and he said that Phil (Collins) gets the same thing with the first show, the voice is fine and then the second show the voice is gone and then the road voice starts to kick in. It is just getting your chops together and it depends on whether it is a full band or acoustic and you have to sort of trust that things will work out.
TWR: So tell us your Mechanics story, how did you become involved with the band?
TH: I had a band in London called Van Tramp and we were playing for about eight years, got a record deal and nothing happened, but the guy who produced the record, a guy called Mark Taylor and Brian Rawlings had a place called Metrophonic and Mike knew Brian fairly well and he was doing some stuff there as well and I was doing some writing there for the band and Brian pulled me aside and said; ’I have seen you front various rock bands a lot and you remind me of Paul Young, I’ve got an idea. Would you be prepared to come and have a meeting?’ So we had the meeting and he said he would really like to introduce me to Mike because he was a big Mechanics fan and it was his passion to somehow try and help get the Mechanics back together.
So we had the meeting with Mike and Tony (Smith) and we had a chat and then I came down to the studio and we worked on some songs and he said I like your kind of singing, it’s not Youngy but it’s you and there is still enough of that there to pay homage to because you can’t sing these songs without paying homage to where they came from before because he was such a powerful and dynamic singer and a really colourful character and without that in the band it wouldn’t be the same. And at the same time I think that Mike had found Roachford as well and basically what it was … it wasn’t going through tunes, it was writing and trying to see if there was a spark there for writing and that was how we put The Road together and after that first tour Mike had a bit of a spring in his step and of course, Genesis wasn’t really on the cards then because they had finished their big world tour and I think Mike wanted to enjoy being normal for a bit! (laughs) You know, being in Genesis must be a kind of abnormal experience when a million people show up in Rome for a concert but you would expect that after that many years in the trenches. But you know both Mike and Phil have had their side projects which have been very successful and I think it would have been a shame not to champion some of this material.
TWR: How involved were you with the album itself, the writing?
TH: For The Road? Quite a bit actually. One thing is that Mike needs somebody to help his ideas not just a producer because that can go… if its just the production side that isn’t where the band comes from, we want to be a BAND and I think from the writing as a trio with Chris Neil or Arno Carstens and then there are the players and it is a solid unit I mean when Mike gets the bass on he is a fantastic bass player. He is grooving and funky and he can also do a lot of the prog stuff too but he is also very creative and so that was something that was integral to the band we all had to be part of the group.
TWR: Mike has always been a good collaborator and is always prepared to give someone their head to go away with an idea and then bring it back. Is that how it was with you guys?
TH: Yeah, and Mike has four or five hundred ideas and he will pick the ones that are clicking at the moment and we will go in and whatever the idea is that is leaping off the pages whether it is lyrical or whatever we will start there and sometimes it is whether you want an album track like When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground and it was Mike and Roachford who led that one out. Just to have that… it was the mood and it was writing from a certain mood and inspiration and then just gigging it up. That’s the lovely thing that we are a band and we have been doing this for four or five years now and we all get along famously you know. We all have our band quibbles sometimes when the bus gets full of people you know but that’s all part of it and I’ve been in the business for twenty eight years now playing all over England and North America and playing all sorts of different versions of stuff so you know what the drill is when you are on tour but it is always fun with Mike and he is very gracious and multi talented. I think everyone has got their strengths and there is a lot of strength in the band and it is FUN to do.
TWR: You are currently performing The Living Years and once that is out of the system, you have mentioned new tracks, such as the one which is on the new compilation. How far down the line do you think it is before a new album?
TH: That’s really up to Mike, he really is led by his ideas and there is a lot going on at the moment, he has just released his book and I am about two thirds through it and it is a great read but I almost don’t want to read it there are a lot of stories to be told because it wasn’t an easy road for Genesis at first and then there is a tune like Living Years which is a bit like golf (laughs) there’s a meaning in it and you carry it around and you might not be comfortable the entire time you are playing it but it is a big song but there are a lot of them; Over My Shoulder is a great vibe song and there is a sad story to it and a lot of them seem to be guys’ stories, you know and I was always a fan of Carrack and Youngy and I love that combination of voices; the rock and the soul.
TWR: You and Andrew have managed to recreate that without becoming a clone.
TH: Yeah, well I’m a Manchester fan anyway so and the fact that Paul Young was from there and had a certain thing to it and so gigging around England there was a certain pocket I knew I could fit into because that was my kind of stadium sort of singing and even though I would love to be the sort of Indie band guy, it’s not really my cup of tea.
TWR: You guys have managed to make the songs your own and they take on a new resonance now.
TH: They are good songs and it is a shame that Paul Young passed away so early because his voice would have become one of those iconic voices that the likes of Robert Palmer has, and you don’t want to be a copy, you never want to be a copy and you can’t listen to these songs and listen to how he sang them without thinking; ’that’s good, that’s a powerful vocal’ and then there is the other side. I have always been a Paul Carrack fan since I first heard Squeeze and How Long? You know, and that is a big tune in North America and to be in the band that created some of that music is great and Mike is the guy and I am happy to be part of it.
TWR: Do you think this show will go to the States?
TH: We are trying to work on it and The Living Years was a significant album in America and so was Silent Running but they don’t know Over My Shoulder and these songs are going to make people get up and dance the way the diehard fans do because they have gone back through the catalogue but the others are going to be a surprise.
I think it being the 25th anniversary of a tune and Mike has got a life as well, he doesn’t have to do this, he does it because he ENJOYS it and he has a lot more to say and that is great for us because it gives us a platform on which to perform and he doesn’t have to do this but I think it would be fantastic if we found our way back to America because I know I could sell at least a hundred tickets at every venue, at least! (laughs) because I used to live there for along while and I am from Canada originally and people ask me all the time but I guess it depends on whether we can get the right venues and it is something that is an intimate experience and we would love to do stadiums but I don’t think that is really the Mechanics thing. The audiences care and they love the idea that we are doing a bit of Roachford’s stuff and Genesis stuff because it just varies it up a bit.
TWR: When this tour is over do you have any plans for your own stuff?
TH: Yeah, I have got about twenty or twenty five songs that I have written and from now to November I will be finishing them because they are all over the place and there are ones that are like The Kinks or Joni Mitchell and I really want to get them done so I can free up the space to write more and maybe that will be with Mike and Roachy and I am looking forward to that. And what happens on these tours is you get to the end of them and you are tired of playing the stuff and we start jamming and something happens from that so watch this space, you know.
TWR: You did Rock Of Ages a while back, any plans to go back to that side of things?
TH: Yeah, there has been talk about it and I enjoyed the UK tour very much but it depends on how it fits into the Mechanics’ schedule that is my first passion and I have done the West End and I really enjoyed it and it was a great show and if something happened I would love to do it again and the producer was a big Genesis fan so he was saying please put these songs in! I have some great mates and some great players in that show but whether it will fit into my schedule I don’t know. And if we do… this tour is selling very well now which is great and it is smaller venues but I think Mike wanted to do it that way because A; we would like to sell them out and B; it’s the Living Years and it’s the people who WANT to be there should be there with their arms around each other singing this iconic tune. It is a really important song and it helps you deal with a lot of unfinished business and if we can get the people who care about that into the auditoriums and having a good time then tick the box - done. But off the back of that it would be nice to say - let’s do America. Mike has done the world with Genesis but it would be great to do something with the Mechanics fans who care - not saying that Genesis fans don’t care because they care more than anybody. We had tons of fans come up in Germany and in Europe and they are really loyal and they are Mechanics fans as well. It’s really about people. The Mechanics are great live and we have some great guys in the crew as well and these guys have all toured with Genesis and they don’t have to do this gig but they do because they are friends of the band and they are friends of Mike and they look after us and to do this tour and to keep it running and Pud (Steve Jones) who runs the ship and he is a great tour manager and we are well looked after. It is nothing frilly or over the top but I don’t really want that, I am a meat and potatoes guy - and some salad these days! (laughs).
And next, we have the chief Mechanic himself, Mr Mike Rutherford…..
MR: The last few months have been very much occupied with the book and everything so it has been very much about me! (laughs).
TWR: So why now? Obviously you have had stories to tell but why have you decided to tell them now?
MR: If you read the preface to the book it kind of tells you. I found my father’s old trunks in the studio and I was having a slight lull in writing and the first trunk I opened was my grandfather’s trunk and I found two published and well received memoirs about army doctoring and then I found my father’s unpublished memoirs about his life in the Royal Navy which were very funny and well written and so I thought I could use my father’s book..
TWR: I think the idea of combining the two is so effective…
MR: That’s what made it so…books about the band have already been done, there is so much of that out there already you know.
TWR: With so many stories to choose from, how did you go about deciding which bits of the band’s story to tell…?
MR: Well, you have to decide upon key moments and so I started with when dad died and Phil’s story and had six or seven stories each about two or three pages long and that was the basis from which it started.
TWR: I loved the story about the Hell’s Angels because not long before I had read the book, I had been transcribing an old edition of TWR and came across an eye witness account of that event which was at Leicester Polytechnic.
MR: The early stories are more fun because once you get to the arena tours there are less surprises .
TWR: A lot of people have commented that although the book is a great start there is enough for a second volume, have you thought about that?
MR: It never occurred to me until someone asked me and who knows? It has had really nice reviews like the one in the Sunday Mail and he got the book and understood it which was nice.
TWR: How does it feel to be playing such an iconic album as The Living Years again?
MR: Strange. If that’s twenty five years then the Genesis stuff is mid career you know. It’s nice you know, when you tour it is always good to have something to hang it on and it has been a hard time getting things re-established after Youngy dying and winding down and we came back very cold for the first album and we hadn’t toured much, we hadn’t toured for years anyway so what we have done over the last three years is build up a following again and this tour is nearly sold out and it’s getting things going again.
TWR: When we spoke to Andrew back in 2011 he said it was a case of trying to re-establish the brand. And now on the compilation there is a new track, is that an indication that there might perhaps be a new album?
MR: Yeah, we wrote that at roughly the same time as we finished the tour and yes, I think it is definitely time for some more music making and quite how you release it and sell it but for us as a band and there is a project which is unfinished.
TWR: Is there much writing going on between …
MR: I have got a few which aren’t finished and one other track which we are trying to finish on the tour and we wrote the words to that at the same time as the new one (Whenever My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground) …
TWR: Is it still effectively you, Andrew and Tim as the writing unit?
MR: Yeah, and Luke, Luke Juby and my son Harry, they are a writing team, and do you know Starsailor? They have done an album with Harry and one of the tracks has been getting radio play.
TWR: We know how you got together with Andrew and Tim but how did you get hold of Luke…?
MR: Luke came through my son Tom who knew a guy… what is his name… and he came down and played a bit and that was it.
TWR: Is there any chance of taking this show or something similar over to the States?
MR: Well, if they ask us. We haven’t done much in America for a while and I don’t know how strong we are over there And what we have done is pared it down so that we tour as lightly as possible - you’ve seen the truck! (laughs). And I like the fact that we do it without lights, I mean with Genesis it’s a different thing.
TWR: That’s it. I remember you saying to me many years ago that The Mechanics should have been called “Have Backline Will Travel” The tour goes on until the middle of March…
MR: We have about a dozen or so festivals in the summer as well. Then we will be writing next definitely.
TWR: Dare we ask it, is there anything planned for the “other” band…?
MR: No, not at the moment. You know we are working on this documentary for the BBC and they are talking to all of us in early March. Phil is flying back and the essence of the documentary is and I have been keen on this for a long time and championing it, is to celebrate the fact that from this one mother ship: Genesis, you have got Gabriel’s career, Collins’ career, the Mechanics’ career and all this music a that you don’t put together and when you do. And when you see all that stuff and especially the later stuff like Sledgehammer, In The Air Tonight it’s an amazing collection of classic tracks.
TWR: The book finishes just after 2007, and there is no mention of your involvement with the Olympics, which was a major event, how did that come about?
MR: I think I forgot actually! (laughs). Nick Mason got involved and with Ed Sheerhan and the bass player from The Feeling and he said do you want to come along and play with us? That was fun. I had to fly back specially for it.
TWR: Have you seen or what do you think about Steve’s Genesis Revisited shows?
MR: I haven’t seen them. I don’t think it is my kind of thing to go and see because there are so many bands out there doing tribute stuff. I’m sure Steve’s is the best one because he was in it! (laughs). It is slightly odd and I am sure it is fun to do.
Next under the spotlight is Anthony Drennan…
TWR: I think many fans will probably remember you from Mike’s other band back in 1998 but how did you become involved with The Mechanics?
AD: Well, Mike did call me after the Calling All Stations tour, for whatever the Mechanics tour was after that but I had just got back with The Corrs and that went on for ten years so I couldn’t really do that. So about three years ago Mike called and asked if I would play on a song from The Road and I sent him over a few bits on guitar and it worked out well and so a while later he asked if I would be interested in touring and so it was quite a while because that was ’98 and so it is nice to be back.
TWR: Do you have any involvement with the writing and recording…?
AD: I did play on a couple of tracks but the album was already under way by then and so I played on a couple of songs on it.
TWR: How is touring with The Mechanics compared to how it was touring with Genesis?
AD: In a funny way there was a lot of pressure on Genesis because Phil Collins wasn’t with them any more and so it is a different kind of thing and these guys are amazing.
TWR: You have these gigs and then what are your plans once this tour ends?
AD: I am not sure, I do a lot of things in Dublin, you know so there are a lot of recording projects and live work over there and thee might be some stuff with Chris Rea. I did the tour with him back in 2012 and there might be some stuff with him. He might do his UK, European and Russian tour and I hadn’t played with him for twenty years and so that was nice. We actually enjoy it. Some bands can be kind of serious but this is a pleasure.
And now we get to hear Luke Juby’s take on what life is like with Mike & The Mechanics…
TWR: We are here to try and find out the real story of what is like with Mike & The Mechanics so how did you become involved with the band…?
LJ: Tom, Mike’s eldest son and I have a mutual friend and Tom rang me
up and asked if I would be interested and I was working for Olly Murs at the
time, cool bunch, and I had all my mates in on that one and so I did both for
about two months until they were going to clash and so I had to make the decision.
TWR: How involved were you with the writing and recording of the album or is it more the live side of things…?
LJ: Both. Live I am more involved with because I have all the old synths. On The Road album I didn’t do any of the writing but I did some playing but I also work with Mike’s other son, Harry and Harry and I run a studio together in London and we have a writing and production team and so we have been doing a lot of stuff together both in London and at The Farm and The Farm is amazing.
The first day I went down all wide-eyed I couldn’t believe it and now, because I am there virtually every week because Harry and I will be working there, I treat it as a second home and I walk in and there is my bread machine there (laughs).
TWR: What is it like working with these guys as it seems to be a much more different proposition to Genesis?
LJ: It is incredibly relaxed and all too often in bands you often form, not cliques but you form good friendships on all the tours , you are all the same sort of people, you are all musicians you all have the same intelligence levels, you’re all the butt of the jokes and there is a lot of humour. I don’t know why but music and humour and to be as good a guitarist as Anto you have to be quick and so it is good fun.
TWR: Well, you have got double the work of course because you have got the keyboards, bass…
LJ: And backing vocals! And sax as well! The funny thing was that when Tom (Rutherford) first rang me, he said ’are you interested in doing Mike & The Mechanics?’ and there were just some songs like Over My Shoulder that I just loved and they sounded like Crowded House and I didn’t know who the band was and it was can you sing? And play bass? And I hadn’t done that, I had played some guitar, not professionally just for fun , and so when is the gig? Oh in about a month…. And how many songs? Oh, just two and so I went… yeah I can play the bass (laughs) So, when I went in with the guys I secretly put some plasters on my fingers because they were bleeding and red raw and I love the bass, and I am still not that good at it. I have played it on a few records now and the other day this song came on during the Formula One which was a co-write and I am always excited… ’there’s my bass!’ (laughs).
Then on the first day I was there with Gary who is one of the best drummers in the world and a drummer and bass player always have that … and he must have known I don’t play bass! (laughs). It has been a lot of fun.
TWR: So, you are doing this tour, what will you be involved in once this tour finishes?
LJ: Harry and I will be working on stuff and it was quite a rush to finish stuff off because we broke up over Christmas and then we had more writing just before the tour and at least he can’t complain about me going off because it is with his dad! (laughs) and so he can’t say ’Oi! What are you doing?’ (laughs) which makes for an interesting dynamic and now I am good friends with Mike and so there will be occasions when I will go… ’Me and Mike… Oh, I can’t tell this story!’ (laughs). Or there will be ’Do you know about Tom’s new girlfriend…?’ There’s always stuff that you don’t tell your dad straight away isn’t there? (laughs). And sometimes when we come back I will go’ Have you heard that new song we did?’ And he will go, ’No, I Haven’t yet’ so sometimes I end up playing the songs before Harry has had the chance to.
I am also working with a female singer who’s a bit Amy Winehouse and she has got her own thing going and then there’s James Wilkie who was on tour with us and who has done some stuff with Sting and we did some writing on that album and Harry has recorded it as well….
And at that point we received a guided tour of Luke’s keyboard rig and Stuart received a few pointers.
Finally, a week later, and in an entirely different location, we catch up with rhythm meister, Mr Gary Wallis…
TWR: Well, Gary, apart from Mr Rutherford, you are the longest serving member of the Mechanics, what is your back story? How did you become involved with the band?
GW: It has been twenty two years now, a long time. Mike was doing a gig at Cowdrey Park with the Genesis boys and the Queen boys and Pink Floyd and I got a ’phone call out of the blue from Mike asking if I would lend a hand because they hadn’t done a lot of shows before and Pink Floyd had done a few and so he said would you step in and play drums? And I said sure, and we did it and everybody had a great time and Mike said; ’look, we’ve lost our drummer, Peter Van Hooke, do you fancy filling the chair?’ And I said ’sure’ and it really was that simple (laughs). So I went down to rehearsals and we recorded… Beggar On A Beach of Gold.
TWR: So you were actually involved in the recording of that album? How does it differ working with this band as opposed to the likes of Pink Floyd…?
GW: That’s a tricky question. They are all completely different it’s like having a selection of girlfriends (laughs) they are all completely different. Musically they are all individual and different questions get asked, different things you have to do with it and….
TWR: You have seen a couple of different line ups of this band, how do you think the dynamic changed after Paul Young died?
GW: It was very odd, after Paul died, me and Paul Carrack and Mike got in there with that and with Pauly dying that was really odd for me.
TWR: How odd did it feel with the Rewired tour effectively being as a support act for Phil Collins…?
GW: It was nice just to get out and play with the boys and it was fun supporting Phil because it was all the same management and they were all big summer shows and it was great fun and it was odd. Youngy was the king of rock ’n’ roll and we all know how mental he was! (laughs) and much he was loved and adored and so without the king of rock ’n’ roll with us and it was really odd. It was a different vibe as it is now with Tim and Roachy.
TWR: I remember when I first heard that Mike had reconvened the band and I had known Roachford for a while from his solo career but I just felt, is this going to work? Then I went to the gig back in 2011 and realised that once again he had touched lucky with two guys who could really fill those boots.
GW: Yeah, when you have two like Roachy and Carrack who are from similar places, obviously very soul based singers with a great rocky edge and then you put that soul voice and then you take both of them and put them into this kind of rock band and it takes them slightly out of their comfort zone from where they normally perform and that’s what’s great about the Mechanics having that kind of soul voice with this kind of rock background and that was always the interesting kind of match, you know. And getting Roachford who has his own unique way of doing things and with what he brings to the band and a similar kind of path having a soul s singer over a rock band. It keeps the Mechanics’ identity but makes it Roachford’s thing as well and everyone fulfils their criteria which is great.
TWR: I guess that Tim has the slightly more difficult job fitting into Youngy’s shoes because they are quite big shoes to fill…
GW: Yeah, as we have said, they are both from similar stages and Tim is a mentalist like the king was (laughs). What’s extraordinary is how similar they are; that kind of groovy piano/organ thing that Roachy is doing and that complete mentalist having ajump about and Mike is a canny old bugger (laughs) and he makes decisions very wisely and he makes very considered choices. Mike is quite a knowledgeable fella and quite easy going and that comes across in so many aspects of Mike but the cogs are whirring behind all of that and they are very considered choices but it is still the Mechanics and a similar feel but it is a new line up and it is unique and a unique sound but it is still under the umbrella as it were. It is still the same brand, it is still Mike & The Mechanics and it has that familiar feel to it with the rock side and the soul side and Mike is going straight down the middle and it is all still there but with just a different line up.
TWR: Mike has just been talking about the likelihood of a new album. Has there been any recording going on between projects because you guys have so many different things going on when you are not with the Mechanics…
GW: A bit of recording for the twenty fifth anniversary to test the waters there and from what I can gather Mike and Tim and Roachy have a lot of in focus stuff, you know where you have ideas and ’this one feels quite good, let’s work this one up and see if it flies’ you know, and there are a lot of things that come out of your mind and you think this one could fit the band, you know and one bit might fit another.
TWR: A lot of the fans I have spoken to don’t want the Peter Gabriel scenario where we wait ten years for a new Mechanics album!
GW: Is he making a new Mechanics album, Peter? (laughs).
TWR: Ha, ha. I mean you have gone out on the road and re-established the brand…
GW: That was what Mike wanted to do, let people know what the Mechanics are all about and there is that wake up thing and when people respond to that and have woken up and we have proved that it is what it says on the packet, it will stay and it has a life and people will come back to it. You know what markets are like these days but it’s a band you know and we have had a four year relationship and everyone gets on very well and everyone is talking about new bits of songs, so the whispers are there. There is nothing like playing this stuff and that keeps the relationship exciting. It’s like getting the old lady (wife/girlfriend) to play dress up, come one! (laughs).
TWR: There are a lot of Mechanics fans in the States, what do you think the prospect is of the band doing any Stateside gigs?
GW: I have no idea, that is so far out of my pay grade (laughs). That is the kind of thing that Tony Smith decides. I am sure there must be some type of audience out there still. To be honest with you, it isn’t that expensive to get stuff over there because the way it works now is the equipment is so good and most equipment is digital these days so you can pretty much recreate what you have got here in any country in the world without having to worry about stuff. So those issues don’t apply like if you are a Genesis or a Pink Floyd with lots of specialised staging and lighting and stuff. If you are a band …a working band where you rely on the music to do that work for you, picking up stuff is cheap so I don’t think that would be a problem. I think it would purely be down to is there the demand for tickets? There’s no reason why we couldn’t do a sort of look-see and go out and play in four or five major cities and see what happens.
TWR: You are busy. What are you doing for the rest of the year?
GW: Well my other day job is I am a musical director for something like thirty other artists and they come to me to put their thoughts together, do the arrangements, pick the band members, conceptualise a tour and then put it out, so I am going to go out with Tom Jones straight after this. Me and Tom are old, old pals and we have known each other for over thirty years and he is doing a load of dates over the summer and the Mechanics have some European festivals which are always a good laugh, you get to play the best song sin the set in an hour and there are lots of different bands there and you have a beer and hang out with other people and go off and have a lot of fun.
TWR: I heard that you recorded the tracks for The Road while touring with Tom how did that work?
GW: I just flew in for a day and my drums were somewhere in the States or Australia or somewhere and so Nick Mason brought his drums down, bless him, he’s the loveliest man in rock and roll. Nick brought his Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon kit down and set it up, bless him - thanks Nick! (laughs). And Mike just said, ’I’ve got these songs, we’re just not sure what they are yet. We don’t know how they go’
TWR: A whole album’s worth?
GW: Yeah. In one day, twenty odd songs.
TWR: How was it done? Was one song done in several different takes or was it one take per song?
GW: I have no idea because some of them weren’t even written when I played on them and Mike said ’I have this thing that kind of goes like this…’ with a few chords and ’it might go there, but it might go here, I’m not sure yet’ So we played two or three different takes of each song, covering all the possibilities and you know what editing is like these days, it is so much easier and you can say I want a section from this, b section from that and you can put it back together like a big Lego set but it was lengthy and I potentially played a whole album where I hadn’t heard a song on it, there were no titles on anything, there were no lyrics at all.
Some bands where you rehearse and you hone it and you really get it to where you want it and then you go and record it and you get a snapshot of what you work on, you know it is a photograph of it. Then there’s the other way where you just come up with ideas and see what other people bring to that and it is like a recipe and everyone brings in their own bit and you put this and that together and then that asks a different question and pushes it in different ways and so it is quite a communal way of building a record up. And if that bit works, you do that.
TWR: Can I wind the clock back a little bit? Your former band, Pink Floyd. How did you get that gig?
GW: Dave (Gilmour) gave me a call. I was at the top of my game and I was playing with Nik Kershaw at the time and we were on the back of about seven or eight number ones at the time and so I was quite high profile and doing a lot of work and Dave had seen me play with a lot of bands and we were on The Secret Policeman’s Ball and he was with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush and I was with Nik Kershaw and we got talking and he just called me the next day and he said, ’I’m putting my band back together do you fancy it?’
TWR: That was percussion rather than full on drums, wasn’t it?
GW: Yeah, there was some drumming to it, some electronic stuff…
TWR: What was the Venice gig like?
GW: Mental (laughs). Let’s just say that the word “chaos” comes to mind and that was before we even played anything. I think we all got to the point where it was quite late in that tour and we actually went; ’where’s the beach? Give us a shout if you get it all working and we will come and play’ so we left it to the management and the crew and apparently there were a LOT of punch ups (laughs). It was good though.
TWR: Coming out on stage today, there’s six of you. There isn’t. There’s a seventh guy on stage that you seem to be looking at and talking to quite a lot, who is he?
GW: Simon? He is the keyboard tech, he works all of my clicks for me. I have a count in to each song. You know, back in the old days you would kind of go, tick tock, and what it is that sometimes when you are playing a really fast song, your heart is racing and then someone says ’play a ballad’ and you are breathing fast and you can put six or seven bpm on that and you go ’great, what the f*ck tempo is that in?!’ (laughs). So what it is, is having the click put down again it makes you recall immediately that that is the tempo, that’s where we are. So Simon has all my clicks and so I am like phew… one, two three, four… so basically he resets me. it’s just an electronic way of re-setting me.
TWR: So, does the click go for just the intro or is it throughout the song?
GW: It is just to get me started, you know and once I settle the click tends to die out.
And that is where we wrap up this extensive chat with the band. Our thanks to the staff at both venues for their assistance. To Mike and the guys for giving up so much time to speak to us and for their generous encouragement. Extra special thanks too to Joanne Greenwood at TSPM for organising everything and to Steve “Pud” Jones for all his help.