Peter: The thing is that the Iyrical content of the songs appealedto us most of all. We just like the idea of telling stories and to someextent, it's been there from a very early stage. As far as what I do inbetween numbers on stage: it evolved through having three or four 12-stringguitars which need regular tuning. This means there are large silencesbetween each number. So we were lucky if we held a - tenth of the audience'sattention during these moments. I just had to fill it and some of the storiesbecame somewhat irrelevant and still are—start running a bit fast fromimages ...
NP: They may be irrelevant, but they seem to be in keeping with thegeneral tone you set. Did you start out that way, or were you playing MIDNIGHTHOUR and WHAT'D I SAY and then go on from there?
Peter: Not with this band actually. But I think we've all playedit in one form or another. This band started about six years ago as songwritersjoining together. The songs we were writing then were very simple, butthey were still a bit ... the Iyrics were a bit pretentious, full of images.We've been recording since we were about seventeen and as we've grown olderso has the material. But then we went through one or two stages in whichwe began to tell stories with the music and it seemed that things we likedplaying were very varied in their moods and we like that, that contrast,some sort of structure other than the usual verse-chorus. verse-chorus-end.
HP:What about the literary content of the music? It's a very strangebut interesting form of literary science-fantasy, fantasy-fantasy, reality-fantasytype of tradition that has happened, I guess,from the year one. Who's involvedin creating the actual songs for Genesis?
Peter: We all do some words but I think it varies. Sort of pick upinfluences from Grimm's Fairr Taies To Vennegut. Myself, I like lots ofpeople: Edgar Allen Poe, Louis Carroll ...
HP: Do you see other ways of expresing this, say books or movies?
Peter: Yes, films, very much. I see what we're doing as very closeto film. And we're investigating various techniques to bring film closerto what we do on stage. Hopefully we should leave the stories, get thematerial so set that they hold up by themselves and so it might be suitablefor video cassettes or video discs when that type of approach becomes abit more of a reality.
HP: When you make v our music and tell your stories on video cassettes,do you see the hand as the visual or an independent visual which you'llcreate?
Peter: Video cassettes would be completely clear of the band. Buton stage I think we'd do a bit of both. I think it's important that youshould come over to the audience and that's something that we don't doas much as we'd like to do— people should be able to relate to what's upon stage.
HP: One of the problems with video is that the record industry hasa tendency to think that the picture on the screen is going to be the band...
Peter: It seems to me that that would be an immature approach, becauseif things are good enough, and I think it's quite possible for it to begood enough, for it to be coordinated, then you can much more accuratelyconvey something with the orchestra and some sort of conventional classicalapproach. It's in the orchestra pit, the band I don't think will fill thatrole but will certainly fill a less important role. Really, there's alwaysgoing to be an audience for a trained live band, but I think it'll be probablythe biggest audience for stories ... sort of either video cassettes orfilms of one sort or another which are a selection of visual images ora coordinated idea ...
Peter: Yeah, where the band doesn't come in. And I think, probably,it'll be coordinated by artists. We've yet to see an artist emerge as arock star, which is something that I think will happen. I've seen thatwith someone who works with the visual images so that they do fifty oreven eighty percent of the video cassette while the band creates the musicfor it.
HP: Have vou thought about video live on stage, like the video projection systems that are available?
Peter: We're getting into these things at the moment.
HP: You use a variety qf costumes and stage techniques which rangefrom very satanic personages to things which are very funny, like the flowerand stuff. How much time do you put into coming up with these things? Whatmotivates them?
Peter: Well, it really evolved for our first headlining tour of England.When we were given the opportunity by promoters and our own finances todo something beyond what we had been doing, then I sat down with my maskmaker and started doing some things.
HP: You have a mask maker? Is he a professional mask maker?
Peter: Well, he is now. He's very good. Virtually anything that Iwant he can find a way to do.
HP: The concept of the mask as opposed to the costume is a traditionthat's interesting—the player with the mask. Are you conscious of that,that it's been part of something that's been going on for a long time,smile and frown masks if nothing else?
Peter: Well, I'm becoming conscious of it. I look upon everythingas things to be learned and I hope to develop a lot more of the thingsI want to do.
HP: People like Bowie are also giving shows ...
Peter: I think I can see a fundamental difference between the waywe would like to use that sort of thing and Bowie. At the moment he seemsto be sort of like creating a fantasy situation and then playing musiclike any other band rather than like what we're doing. With us what happensis evolving straight from the act of story telling from each differentnumber. Rather than setting or scenery and then just being a rock show.The trouble with the visuals used by most rock bands so far is that they'revery uncoordinated—just half-hearted grasping at images and, for the mostpart, the only thing that's worked for me is a very fast succession ofimages that give you this hypnotic effect and sensation of speed, but I'venever been really happy with the visuals of rock bands.
HP: One of the problems with these visuals is that they're not repeatable.You pay to go and see them and that's it. You can't replay them, see themagain when you want to.
Peter: That's one of the things we want to do ... just a book sortof. We put together a book which will be on sale depending on how muchit will cost for color reproductions of the visual things. So people canhave them to get on with the music, and this again hasn't really been doneproperly. The nearest thing I've seen to it was the Procol Harum GrandHotel book, just sort of very simple designs. I thought it was very tastefuland that sort of idea is what we wanted to do on this last tour. Hopefullywe'll have it together in the future.
Peter: No, not from another area, but just more interested in lookingat things as well as listening to things. And, well take painting, I'mno good at it, but it does seem that when I write Iyrics I always get verystrong visual images which I would try to put into words, but other thanthe other way around—writing words and getting images from that—it seemsa pity that some of that isn't getting through at all.
HP: Do British and American audiences have different perceptionsof what you're doing on stage?
Peter: I think there's the obvious things ... because the Americanmarket has more money, you're met with the most professional acts. you'remet with the most ... it's much more of a profession out here than it isin England. In England if you're amateurish you can get along alright,you can be sloppy, you can lose control of your audience, lose their interest,at various points and if you can get them to clap their hands at the end,you're okay. But it doesn't work over here.
HP: It's real business here ...
Peter: Yeah, right. I think it's because of the money and the competitionthat therefore surrounds it and thus leads to a much higher standard ofprofessionalism. The American audience has seen much more.
HP: They're mediaized. They've seen a lot and their level of blaseis much higher. Do you think that the energies that go on in this countrywould be beneficial to you staving here and creafing ...
Peter: I like New York very much, I must say, and I doubt very muchwhether I'd be able to do it but I'd be quite happy, for myself, to livesix months here and six months in the English countryside which is whereI feel the happiest. But you do pick up off the sort of energy around here.
HP: About your shaved head, was there any particular reason for doingit, or was it just whimsy?
Peter: It was almost as simple as it seems. I have several reasons.First and most obvious was that it was a cheap gimmick to make me money.Second is that it's an outward sign of the spiritual desert that lies within.I have a clairvoyant woman that I go and see and she told me that in mylast lifetime I was a Mohican Indian and I had my brain removed ...
HP: Do you have to maintain it?
Peter: Yes. Shave it every day. It's no less logical to shave thetop of one's head than it is to shave the bottom of one's head. It's justless conventional.
HP: It must really wreak havoc with the poor people who are finallyaccustomed to seeing a long haired rock and roll band shuffle in and outof airports. Do you have little old ladies come up to vou and ask you whatthe reason for it is?
Peter: Most people pretend not to notice it. One or two ... I tendto get stopped inore often in customs. My dream of course is that our entireaudience should be composed of people with their stupidly shaved heads.I've seen one or two guys in England with shaved heads.
HP: Does it give vou a feeling of immense satisfaction, creatingsomething out of nothing...
Peter: You realize how easy and unimportant it is. I'm very attractedto a lot of the ideas in Zen and attempts to ignore extremes and find aroute of its own which is ever aware of the lack of validity of all adjectivesfor the reason that they are attached to the top of the bottom of the extremesin any situation. In other words. in heaven, the word good or the wordbad is somewhat different to the word good or bad in hell.
HP: Are rou affected at all bv the midieval tradition of Merlin andArthur and that whole thing?
Peter: I don't know. I mean, I like that sort of fantasy. I likea lot of occult fantasy. There's a lot of things in that area that interestme—people in New York doing research with plant responses, and a communityin Scotland supposed to be producing amazing cabbages by talking to them...
HP: You're supposed to talk to your plants ...
Peter: Dolphins. All these things. A lot of really interesting thingsthat—well not so much dolphins, but those subjects which have been brandedoccult or wishy washy, people are now beginning to investigate a littlemore seriously.
HP: Technology seems to be going hand in hand with mysticism. I don'tthink the people who invented the transistor in 1947 would have presumedthat it would lead to a mystical relationship berween yourself and thetransistor, which, at least, it has for me. Do you think mysticism is goingto continue. Whether you call it occult or mysticism, that sense of theintellect growing fantasy levels. Do you think the normal person on thestreet is going to be affected?
Peter: The group itself is bourgeois escapism, but as far as thissort of thing, I think a lot of them will become less mystical. Kids willbecome school kids, will accept them—for a sort of diet of scientific fact—willinclude things that are now called mystical. Yeah. I think there's a growinginterest in that sort of thing. A lot of rejection of present values. Therehas to be a reawakening of interest in spiritual matters.
HP: What media inputs do you have in terms of your home lifestyle... what do you feed on ... radio, tv?
Peter: Reading. You can go at your own pace. My father is involvedin television. He invented a part of the cable television thing. I wentto look at one of the first places where it's being fitted-in which isa medical college in Cleveland. And I was really impressed with the facilities,they have built into their labs there. In about five years time there willeffectively be a library of tapes all of which you'll have access to fromexternal points. As far as learning, it is like a book in that you cango back on some things, stop films and look at stills. With live broadcastsprobably they'll be recorded simultaneously so that you get a copy, canhave it in your library.
Perer: He has no legs. (laughs).
HP: The first time you see Genesis it's very unorthodox, especiallyon a sexual leveL Bands in America have lead guitarists who come out andpresent themselves you know, 'here I am with my guitar, I'm sexy'.
Peter:lt wasn't intentional. It began really because a.) throughthe fact that, mostly to extend the instrumental range — each instrumentalisthas a wide number of things to do. Both hands and feet are usually occupiedwith pedals and things and to maintain a high degree of accuracy they haveto play sitting down. I would like them to be more of a sort of band feeling,it does sometimes look as though each individual person is going in theirown direction. And I think it's something we're conscious of. Also I thinkI just very much dominate the stage.
HP: Did you ever think you'd have to worry about all these thingswhen you started the band? Like seeing Your mask maker and all?
Peter: No, we believed in playing behind a black curtain and thatthe music would get through, but over a period of years we decided thatit wasn't just that it was going over their heads, it was going under theirfeet as well. And so, at the beginning when we were sort of in a cottagewriting things, we thought then that it was sufficient just to have themusic. Which it clearly isn't, because people have to look at you. Andit's logical that you should try to get something to be looked at.
HP: Does it worry vou that the lyrics must get across, must be distinct?The first time I saw you, over a year ago at Philharmonic Hall in New York,was very strange because obviously a lot of people were not familiar withanything, had no idea what vou were going to be like. The second time Isaw the band I thought that more of the Iyrics got across physically, notjust in terms of me hearing them but, for whatever reason, the band seemedto to be getting them across. Do you think they should be 100%—should reachthat point?
Peter: Well, I'm never sure that it will be IOO% with the stuff thatwe do?
HP: How much do you worry about the band's albums?
Peter: Well, I worry more than anyone else. But there's a lot ofargument that goes on. If you're going to spend a bit of time on writingwords, then you might as well get across at least as many of the wordsas you can. But there are a lot of Iyrics I never say that I understood,but I just got a feeling for them and that's probably aufficient, particularlyif we are able to get the visual thing to a much further degree. Then,once you leave the theater after seeing us, you'll relate to certain visualimages. You do that already with music, with rock. For instance, I thinkthe Stones, when you listen to them, you're conscious of them and Jaggerand the early days and the rebel bit—they are all visual links when youhear that music.
HP: Elvis was like that too.
Peter: I sort of missed Elvis ...
(Interview conducted by Richard Robinson).