Continuing our trawl through the TWR and The Pavilion archives, I came across
this not entirely serious interview with Anthony Phillips and his archivist,
Jonathan Dann which originally appeared in #13 of TWR’s sister magazine:
The Pavilion many moons ago. I think you might find it interesting….
“Loch-ing the dhu after the interview has been done!” - Anthony Phillips and Jonathan Dann interviewed not too seriously about the Archive Collection CD. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt on Sunday 23rd August 1998. Photographs: Alan Hewitt, Jonathan Dann and Brian Roberts. Memorabilia: TWR/The Pavilion Archive.
AH: Where did the Archive Collection originate from? What inspired it? I mean, I know the answer, you know the answer, but our readers don’t…
AP: (In not too serious tone) the reason for this CD was: owing to public pressure we decided to explore the attic to see if we could find any previously unheard recordings and at the same time it was decided that it would be a very nice gesture to the long standing fans…
AH: And long suffering editor!
AP: To consider the idea of giving it to them as a free CD of hitherto unreleased material. Our two intrepid explorers (by this Ant is alluding to myself and Jonathan - AH) set out and embarked upon an assignment in the attic and found nothing and that was the end of the idea!
JD: Join us next week ….
AP: To be continued…
AP/JD: Are we going to do it now? I think we’re about ready now….
AH: I think we have had enough s**t and surreal drivel for one interview! (laughs).
AP: Sir who? (laughs).
AP: The rationale behind it … what was the rationale behind it? People wanted to hear some old music. This is going to be a little bit difficult to be serious, isn’t it?
AH: (trying a different approach). The pair of you, if you like, tell us a little bit about the potted history of some of it…
JD: To understand how it came about…
AH: Where did the original idea originate and when was it? Was it before the Genesis box set was mooted or afterwards?
JD: I think the honest answer is; the real start of it was my obsession with all those tapes that Ant has stacked up and what was on them, and at the same time wondering how far back these recordings go historically speaking, and would Ant ever let me hear any of them?
AH: To which, the answer was, sadly, ‘yes’.
JD: At the same time we had noticed that in more recent years with the CD re-issues, everybody from Abba to Frank Zappa was releasing material from their archives with various merits and so therefore, maybe there was an argument for releasing an album of Ant’s material if there were enough things that would pass muster.
AP: Pass the committee actually.
JD: As I remember it , it was what got me interested and I would occasionally make joke comments to Ant like: ‘when are you compiling the Mike demos four CD box set?’ to which Ant would cheerfully laugh and say; ‘you must be joking!’
AH: Oh, he was THAT polite?
JD: And it was then down to one Sunday in August 1995 after the prize winner’s day out when the voyage to the attic took place. I remembered in 1993 when Ant had told me about an old tuck box that had some tapes in it and I had asked how old the tapes were and Ant had said he wasn’t sure and that we might try and play a few and so the voyage was made and we carried down… whose tuck box was it?
AP: A guy called Duncan Smith (Not Ian Duncan Smith I trust, Ant? AH) who was at Charterhouse who was in the same house as Richard Scott, and they must have swapped tuck boxes at some stage. I never had a tuck box myself and I guess that when I was doing bits and pieces with Richard he must have lent it to me because a lot of my old tapes and bits of gear; small bits like microphone attachments and such like, all ended up piled in and when I moved from Send I guess it became a receptacle for chucking small bits and pieces in and there it remained in the attic for years, which is where it should have stayed!
AH: And then we came along…
JD: So, having retrieved the tuck box as you remember, we started playing various tapes and giving them various categories.
AH: I think the story is sufficiently well known of how we found the initial TAPE which caused all the excitement (I am referring here to the tape of side one of the original From Genesis To Revelation album - AH). What happened afterwards?
JD: Let’s see… Is it worth mentioning which tapes we found where? The main one is, of course, the one which must have been a copy that turned out to be From Genesis To Revelation that was pretty much the first one (I recall it was the last one we actually LISTENED to on that famous evening - AH), but some of the tapes which we found were, if I am right, recorded on a format which is redundant now and we should explain that all of the tapes we found were quarter inch reel to reel tapes and a number of those had been recorded on domestic machines and therefore the format on which they had been recorded needed to be played on one of those machines, and I remember listening to one or two things which were identifiable and saying to Ant: ‘I think I’ll be able to copy these so you can hear them’.
AH: At which point he left the room screaming? (Laughs).
AP: Because Jon, if I am not mistaken, had a machine with that old technology because the trouble is that you used both sides of the tape on that stuff and so when you play it back on a current machine, you get four separate entities; two stereo on both sides, and on a modern machine, you will get doubling up. Just before you move off the Genesis stuff, is it worthwhile chronicling which Genesis tracks were found?
JD: I believe there were two actual Genesis tapes from that batch, that as I mentioned before, were part of the master for From Genesis To Revelation pre- strings.
AP: Which was thought to be lost but only a copy at seven and a half instead of fifteen IPS (Inches Per Second) but the quality was good enough for them to use Build Me A Mountain and In The Wilderness and Image Blown Out that is an addendum to the story of what we found which was the first part of the album. Apparently John Silver had a cassette copy which he had given to Tony Banks and the request came from Tony to see if we could find the studio version specifically of Image Blown Out because it was felt that it had something, whatever…As opposed to the demo, because they were going to use the demo.
JD: And indeed a rough demo was included on the initial CD-R and during a subsequent hunt, the second half of the album was found and Tony was called and he was at the dentist and after he had finished his torture, he duly ‘phoned back and Ant told him that that had been discovered and the tapes were taken down to The Farm I believe, for mastering purposes.
The other tape that was found was a tape of the very first Genesis demos recorded in the room above the garage…
AP: At Brian Roberts’
JD: That was the tape that had the legendary “Edit” where the tape had been tied together (Had I known what I was holding in my hands when we found that tape I would probably have fainted - AH) .
AP: We never had much truck with the niceties of these new fangled things (laughs).
JD: That tape was one of those that I took away with me to see if I could salvage it by transferring the sound. So, basically the tapes that I took away were that one and some of the ones that we subsequently discovered and having subsequently listened to them, they are the ones that Ant refers to as the “Nick Lewin Demos” that were recorded with Mike in September 1969. A tape that had some 1970 demo recordings on it which we subsequently discovered is only a copy tape and not the original…
AP: That was my demos after leaving the group, demos of a lot of stuff that appeared on The Geese & The Ghost.
JD: The first Genesis tape, as I said and there were a couple of other miscellaneous tapes that had just copies and one other which, when Ant listened to it, was convinced it couldn’t be one of his because it was playing very, very fast at a slowed down speed and I suggested that it might be a recording made at the legendary speed of fifteen sixteenths, and Ant initially denied that it could be so. Then I took the tapes back home and listened back to them on two different tape machines. This is very boring… one was a Revox A76 and the other was a Sony F 99T which my dad had bought in 1965 and by using the combination of those two machines it was possible to listen to the tapes as they would have been heard and recorded when they were originally done and to, at that stage, just make copies on to cassette so that Ant could hear them.
So that was done straight away with the Nick Lewin and the 1970 tape. The one I mentioned before at fifteen sixteenths was more of a challenge and that had to be copied on to another tape and then THAT tape was slowed down as slow as possible to get the material back and that eventually revealed… what is the best way to describe it? About four and a half hours’ worth of a working tape, a writing tape.
AH: Of what?
JD: Ant on his own and Ant and Mike playing through ideas and trying to write material.
AP: Talking, arguing, fighting, that sort of thing! (laughs).
JD: And it is on that that tape that Mike loses a plectrum and they try to play along with the ‘engaged’ tone on the telephone (laughs) and among all these things are some bits and pieces which devoted Genesis fans would say ’Ah, that sounds like a part of… Dusk, like a part of White Mountain…’ can be heard and it is very, very fragmentary. They are not full band versions of anything like that but…
AP: You have actually got mostly the basis of White Mountain being written as it was written and someone saying, and I am sure it is me saying: ’I’m sure that sounds like something else…’ and I still think that it was from something else.
JD: The other thing we should say about this is that the sound quality is EXTREMELY poor because it was recorded at such low speed, just in case anyone thinks it is ever going to be released, to which the answer is: ’no’. So, we had that tape and just briefly that had a number of pieces that Ant resurrected so to speak for some 1972 demos with Jeremy Gilbert but basically it is an ideas tape contemporary with that whole period.
The other thing was the first Genesis demo tape and there is a very convoluted story about how it was copied by putting it on the tape and then playing it backwards on the Revox because you got the complete track because a certain young gentleman (No, no names will be changed to protect the innocent this time, it WAS Ant!) had decided to test his tape recorder over that particular recording so there was a certain amount of a Genesis track followed by ’hello’ (in best Mr Bean voice) and so by doing that we were able to bring that back without the tape recorder and I believe that, and Ant can correct me if I am wrong; that the version of Patricia in its instrumental form was taken from that and used on the box set?
AP: I think that was used, yeah.
JD: Because Tony Banks’ copy suffered from what we call tape “wow” and sounded really horrible…
AP: And mine sounded better thanks to Jon’s brilliant restoration and now, sadly, the world has heard it with Peter Gabriel playing brushes.
JD: There were six tracks on that one: Try A Little Sadness, She Is Beautiful, That’s Me, the effervescent, bubbly, sparkly Listen On Five
AP: One of the great tracks of the world, so powerful…
AH: (Without a trace of sarcasm) - NOT): Well absolutely, and hopefully we will continue to miss out on it for quite some time! (laughs).
AP: The Foghorn Brothers on backing vocals and The Undead as Jon called them!
JD: The Undead appear on She Is Beautiful because the tape plays slightly slowly… and the last track on that tape was a cover version of the effervescent, bubbly, sparkling Anon classic: Don’t Want You Back and the same tape also includes some more musical ideas from Ant including a piece that had parts that formed Image Blown Out again in a fragmentary form and if I am not sadly mistaken, that is the earliest recording of Ant playing anything in a solo context that we have found that still exists I believe. So, anyway…
AH: So, moving on slightly, when you started this, I mean I know that the original idea was to do something for the fan club but I certainly had no idea that it was going to develop into such a large scale thing. Did you think it would develop into such a full blown project for people once you started gathering the material?
AP: I think probably not really because the sound quality initially seemed… and there were all these technical challenges and the quality seemed poor-ish and obviously set alongside other things being released, probably not. But with Jon’s fine work it sounded more coherent and I think having heard The Beatles’ Anthology with the tracks at the front which were taken from cassette and which were terribly, terribly primitive and so I thought if people put stuff like that on then it is acceptable, and we shouldn’t worry so much really.
AH: So what’s the next stage?
JD: That was in 1995 and I remember just before Christmas 1995 in an extended torture session playing the entire lot back to Ant who very bravely sat there and listened to the whole lot including that great long working tape that I mentioned before and made notes and comments on hiss levels, technique and so on and so forth.
AP: Or LACK of technique!
JD: For future reference and I don’t think that anything happened that got the project any further until 1997 although there was talk about how it might come about and I think the initial idea was that at that stage it would certainly be a tape release.
AP: Yes, it was going to be a cassette release, that’s right.
JD: And then in the summer of 1997... Let’s get this right…
AP: When did the “Panel” get together?
JD: Well, it was the summer of 1997 when I came with my friend Paul and Ant was kind enough to lend me a DAT machine and I mentioned to Ant that maybe this was the time to do part of the checking of the material which Ant couldn’t replay because of the tape complications I mentioned earlier, and Paul and I wrestled number of tapes off the shelves and at the same time I tortured Ant with a recording of the teenage Rock Combo Anon. Essentially what happened was that I took more tapes away at that stage; these dated from 1971- 73. The problem not so much being the way they were recorded but the speed at which they were recorded and I needed to put them on to a machine that could cope with that and I had returned Ant’s original tapes but I took those away again and this was when I initially made cassette copies of them all and that was when I believe that the “Listening Panel” drove up one sunny day and…
AH: We were lulled into a false sense of security! (laughs).
JD: And began to comment in various ways * and I believe votes were taken and we compiled what they call in the trade a shortlist although it wasn’t very short! It was two and a half hours’ worth! But considering what we had whittled it down from; because with the tapes I had taken away from 1971 - 72 there were about nine hour’s worth and nine hours’ worth before so that was about eighteen hours in all.
AH: Saying that of course, is going to piss most of the fans off, of course, because they are going to say’ ‘well we want to hear this as well!’
JD: What we should say is that… and Ant won’t mind me saying, is that those recordings are DEMO recordings and the ones from 1972 were made exclusively to play to Mike and are not for a wider audience.
AP: Absolutely not, no.
JD: We had other complications when Ant’s DAT machine broke down but that was when this material was transferred on to DAT because I had all of the originals still at home and absolutely everything was then DAT-ified and that was the transfer of absolutely everything and then we started to make a shortlist…
AP: Once the “August Committee” had raised their hands, and it must be pointed out that on the basis of the two and half hours of material to listen to, on the basis of raising your hand to veto a track, the Listening Panel got through it in about ten minutes! (laughs). They didn’t need much encouragement once I told them about the hand raising and after that it was really a question of including anything that really stood up and that’s why it came out as a blank CD (laughs). And it was question of trying to sort out what stood up in terms of performance and a balance between of the different amount of tracks. The quality threshold was a difficult thing, really. I felt that the quality threshold would be alright technically on most of it although there were some tricky moments knowing what they could do with hiss and stuff but the quality threshold was pretty tricky on performance especially anything with singing on and one or two of the things on the instrumentals where you were just picking out notes on a demo and you never thought that anyone would be hearing this stuff. Things like Take This Heart, you know, so that was difficult and Jon did the compilation in terms of the order and I can’t remember exactly how we arrived at the final order… how long was the shortlist, Jon?
JD: About two and a half hours after the listening panel. Before that it was considerably more.
AH: So, you know who to blame now, folks! (laughs).
AP: And then other limitations came into play as we arrived at the final collection and there were one or two others that got chucked out, weren’t there, in that final phase?
JD: There were one or two in the final phase that got put on hold because there is this threat isn’t there; “where’s Volume Two?” (laughs) and there were several where I distinctly remember if there IS a Volume Two, they might be suitable for it.
AP: It does cover quite a wide area.
JD: That going up to 1990 was quite a late thing actually, when we were getting on to listening to tracks very closely and I think the inclusion of the Slow Dance single was one of the last things.
AP: Several of them were happy accidents. I mean, Back To Pluto and The Burnt Out Cattle Truck … scenario, those were accidents really, twice playing tapes backwards, and we shouldn’t give away these secrets really but Back To Pluto is Pluto Garden backwards and the other one is an old demo, a U2 type clone track backwards. There was quite a lot of happy accidents going on but it did definitely provide a forum for one or two tracks which had merit from playing.
And I’d like to mention things like Catch You When You Fall which is a backing track from a song we were going to do on Sides; a great rhythm track with great playing by both John Perry and Mike Giles and it wouldn’t really have fitted anywhere else. I mean with the Virgin re-issues, various things came up but that was considered too slight for a major re-issue where they wanted just one key track and it fitted perfectly here.
AH: There are other tracks here including personal highlights for me such as Study In G, was that ever down for inclusion on an album?
AP: It was close on Private Parts & Pieces II and they used some of the other pieces from the score; the “Six Pieces For Guitar” book but most of them were just done as a demo for the publishers to hear and they weren’t performed as performances and I regarded that one as being a bit slightly not up to scratch but actually it seems to be alright. And also being able to put on instrumental mixes of songs and different mixes as well as in the case of Exocet, I think is valid.
AH: We know there were only a thousand copies with the second CD where you actually married three tracks together. What was the reason for that? Were the tapes of poor quality? Was the performance not up to scratch?
AP: Well, if we sort of separate the phases of recording; the stuff with Mike Rutherford in 1969, the singing was…bold but indiscreet really. There was none of this shrinking violet stuff and as I have said before, these were committee performances which should have been committed (laughs). Unfortunately we couldn’t use any of the vocals and so we were putting together some of the instrumentals; middle bits, end bits, intros and outros, whatever from different tracks which seemed insubstantial by themselves really and we joined them up to make a more continuous flow and the end of What Is The Meaning was going to go quite well into Farewell and What Is The Meaning also had a double instrumental ending which did exist in its original form, unedited and we did have to do some tricks there because the hiss was horrendous and it was a segue just to give it a bit more length.
AH: Kip PJ… the sleeve notes say that this was recorded in the summer of 1973 and is a variation of a previously unheard song. WHICH previously unheard song?
AP: It’s a backwards track from a Sides demo which never had a title and the track was inspired by “PJ” Proby and it was so slow that it would make someone like that go to sleep (laughs). Actually, the working title was “J P Pick” because it reminded me of John Perry’s association with the album.
JD: Then Ant and I started looking at the tracks themselves and things that had to be done for tracks. Like if a track stopped suddenly because somebody hit the stop button on the tape machine like they did on the “Kiddies” mix of The Geese & The Ghost (laughs) and then a fade needed to be added. Little technical things like that and then we had to hunt down the original master tapes for the material which I hadn’t transferred and while doing that we discovered that some of the tapes such as those for Catch You When You Fall; Study In G and the Holy Deadlock vocal mix had suffered from tape shedding and needed to be baked and that is why there is a mention of the restoration particularly for Study In G and then Ant did the transfer on those.
AP: It is a tricky process. If you are going to spend forever re-running these things to de-noise them which obviously we couldn’t afford so we were able to put in a modest shot at it with record company funds being what they are and you can’t perform miracles with these things and you can’t get rid of it and we did run into some problems towards the end of The Geese & The Ghost which actually dropped out but if you try and get rid of the hiss you can go too far and it happened, funnily enough, when I was doing a try-out of Chinese Walls, and you can get rid of the hiss but then the track starts to wow and we certainly got a bit of it at the end of The Geese & The Ghost so it kind of phased itself out and kind of disappeared like it went under the waves for two or three seconds and the only way round it was to have MORE hiss and that was unacceptable. And so it is actually chopped and there are all these little things going on the whole way through so actually it is far from an easy exercise in terms of just checking old stuff out and it presents far more headaches. Not in the compositional sense that you have got with new work, but it presents far more technical problems. Because you have to find the original tapes and a blank bit of hiss so they can “sample” the hiss and that is how they get rid of the hiss on the track but if you haven’t got an unaccompanied piece of hiss then it is difficult to do and so it is tricky and on the tracks which were segued together that was a worry because if the hisses didn’t match, the whole process wouldn’t work and we also had tape boxes not properly marked with different things with EQ frequencies and so it was constant listening and trying to decide which was better and going on the whole time really. But it seems that people were happy with the end result.
And there you have it, a fascinating exploration of how TWR became involved in both archival projects. I am sure you have found it an interesting read.
Obviously these were very much tongue-in-cheek and we did show the proper respect for these historical (and on occasions hysterical) recordings really - HONEST! And for the sake of historical posterity, the other members of the “August Listening Panel” that Ant and Jon refer to were: Mr David Beaven and Mr Jeremy Brown - so now you know that it wasn’t all my fault, folks!