Over the past few years, Genesis has been one of the most importantbands in the development of 'theatre-rock", writes Jim Farber With thehelp of lead singer Peter Gabriel's sinister costumes and versatile on-stagethesbian talents) the group's classical-rock sound has been brought toits ultimate visual realisation.
Yet, fast May, Just when Genesis popularity was reaching alevel equal to their artistic abilities Gabriel quit leaving the bond withouta major focal Point. Resisting panic, the group went on to record a newalbum on their own titled A Trick Of The Tail, with drummer Phil Collinshandling the vocals Recruiting ex- Yes arid King Crimson drummer Bill Brufordto temporarily fill Collins' old position, the band embarked on a NorthAmerican tour. Genesis are now focusing all their energies on establishingthem- selves in their re-vamped form Here bassist Mike Rutherford offersthe story behind their struggle:
Why, exactly did Peter Gabriel leave the band?
Well, the main reason was that he got a little bit bored andthought it was time for a change. He'd considered leaving the whole musicbusiness for a bit-but it looks now as though he's going to do more recordingand stuff. I guess he could've done a solo thing within the band, but hegot tired of playing the role he had to play in the band. But it was anamicable split. In fact, Phil Collins and I have just dome some sessionswith Pete to put down some demos for an album Pete's gonna do soon.
Will you play on his next album?
I don't think so-that would bring Pete back to Genesis again,and that's the last thing he wants.
What do you think is the biggest loss to the group with Pete's departure?
I think the biggest problem is with our stage show. We feltconfident that without Pete we could do a good album because Pete was reallyonly one fifth of the writing team. We've all always worked together onthe songs. So in song writing, each person is as important as the other.Musically, when one person leaves you to try to cover up his areas. LyricallyPete used to give us a lot of the humorous elements, so we've all madean effort to put in some funny things on the new album. But Pete was strongestand most original on stage, so losing him has to hurt us most there. Consequently,we* haven't really tried to replace Pete. I mean, Phil doesn't try to dowhat Pete did-as an actor, that is. So now we've tried to limit the theatricsto the visuals around us. We use films and lasers but no acting as such.
The band now centres more on the instrumental aspects of thingsin the l/ye show, right?
Well, yes now 'the band" is all there is, though the extra-musicalthings-the movies, do help.
Also about your live show-except for King Crimson's Robert Fripp,I can't think of any other guitarist who sits down on stage. Why do youand Steve Hackett take that position?
Well, I don't really think it's good to stand up and bad tosit down, as most people seem to think. But actually I sit down becauseI play the bass pedals as well as the guitar and that's hard to do standingup.
Another strange thing about your live show is that even though you'reall obviously skilled musicians, in your concerts there's very little spontaneoussoloing Why do you use this very set, arranged format?
Well, we liked to keep down the improvisation on stage becauseto solo in that format you've either got to be so exceptional that you'realways great OF you've got to be able to accept the fact that half thetime it's excessive rubbish. And also because I see myself primarily asa writer, not a player. The most creative stage for me is the compositionand recording. So actually we're more concerned with our songs than ourplaying.
Is it at all possible that in the future you'll be getting a newvocalist-since Phil seems like sort of a quick replacement singer??
No, I'm sure now that we're going to keep Phil as our singer.We went through a whole scene with that-I'll give you the history of howit happened. We had just finished a tour and Pete was definitely leaving.The band was due for a serious writing period to get the new directionfor us and we were a bit shaky for a while, but the first week of writing,the material came out so good that we knew the album would work out well.First we said that Phil would sing just the acoustic songs, since his softervoice is good for the mellow things anyway and then we went out to auditionsingers. Well, we got 400 through tapes and about twenty to thirty in theflesh, and all the time Phil would try them out by him singing a line andthen they'd sing a line, and Phil always sounded better. But we were stiltlooking for a singer when we went in to record the album-but after doingthe acoustic things we said to Phil,'why don't you have a go at one ofthe heavier songs', for example "Squonk," and Phil did that well too, Sowe finished the album with him. But even then we figured singing drummersdon't make it, and then we considered not going on the road at all ('causewe've been together so long and no one was quite suited to just pick upwith us). But then we got the idea to use another drummer-so we got BillBruford (who'd once done some jamming with Phil). Phil plays drums on stagea bit too, though. He sings the vocal sections and then plays alongsideBill during the instrumental parts.
When you were looking for a vocalist, did you want another/actor-singeralong the lines of Pete?
No. It was really funny, though - people started sending usthese pictures of costumes they wanted to use in our show. There was agreat guy who was wearing this incredible red dress. He looked like somesort of hooker. It was really hysterical. But we didn't want to do a carboncopy of what we'd been. The band has to go with our new, less theatricalapproach.
Does Phil still consider himself the band s drummer?
Yeah, I think so, because he still plays drums a bit on stage-asI said before. And as far as the studio goes, the four of us without Billare a perfect unit and consequently Phil's the real drummer. Bill's justhelping for this tour-how it works out in the future, who knows?
It could work out like Roxy Music's bassists-they have a new onefor each tour.
Yeah, it may work like that.
You know; Phil s voice is incredibly similar to Peter Gabriel s;does Phil find himself imitating Pete?
No. I know people have criticised him for that but actually,you may not realise it, but Phil sang along with Pete on a lot of the oldthings. But the interesting thing is that a lot of singers we auditioned,who had very different voices than Pete, wound up sounding like him whensinging our songs only because our note melodies make them sound that way.It's amazing. I think it has to do with the material- it pushes the voicein a certain direction. The songs are so different, melodically, that anyvoices that sing them somehow sound similar to each other.
About the new album why did you suddenly start splitting upthe songwriting credits since previously all the material was crediteduniformly to Genesis?
Two reasons: (a) the songs were written more by individualsthis time. It was different on the Trespass album, for instance. On thatalbum we all added our own bits. Someone would lead with an idea arid therest would blend in; (b) because in the past the rest of the group werestill looking for a singer cause we got a bit overlooked. I think if onthe older albums people could have seen who wrote what and seen that mostof the writing was done by us and not Pete, then when Pete split peoplewouldn't have thought that the remainder of the group would be in a bind,'cause creatively we're not. So I guess we learned our lesson.
Was this breakdown of the group's songwriting credits reflected inthe way you recorded the album-shot's to say, did you work as much as aunit as before?
Yes. More actually. I'd say the new album is more a "band"album than anything we've ever done mainly because we worked very closelyon the recording of the vocals and that brought us together. In the past)Pete used to record the vocals on his own But, I didn't like that becausewhen I did a lyric I had written, I thoughts the songwiter I could havehelped getting the final product more focused terms Of what I originallyintended the new album we all had much more of a say. That's why we'reso satisfied with it. Also, the production is a big step forward for us.I think we got more "attack" on this album. It has more bite-a bit moreaggressive than Genesis has been in the past.
Another interesting thing about the new album (and all of your a/bums,in fact) is that they're all exceptionally long, like fifty to sixty minutes.Are you trying to give us our money's worth?
Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that. Like, for instance, SailingEngland By The Pound has about half an hour on each side. And then I always)think: of a band like Lindisfarne who did an album, Fog On The Tyne, withsixteen minutes a side. To me) length is important because I think peopleare cheating a bit to: do a short one.
As far as your individual talents go, besides bass you also playcello. Did you have any classical training in that?
No, none. A friend's grandmother donated a cello to me andso I started to play it all by ear - all selftaught- which means in thefirst few months you go along great and think you've got it but then youhit some barriers because you don't know the correct fingerings 50 1 don'sdo much cello now.
Have any of the other members of the bond had any classical training?
Tony (Banks) has taken piano all throughout school. It wasn'ta music school but he had weekly lessons. The rest of us are all self-taught.
Do any of you, besides Tony, read music?
No. As lb for me, I'm completely un- technical in my playing.I tried learning lo read about three years ago but I was so occupied inthe band that l really didn't have time for it. Yet in a funny way that'shelped my songwriting. I mean, when I approach my guitar to write a songit's completely unorthodox and so the things I write are in very weirdtapings) so I'm uninhibited that way. So my ignorance has been a strengthto me. What type of bass guitar do you use now?
I'm in the middle of changing over now. I use an older double-neck-witha bass and guitar, a Microfret - the company's out of business now. It'sa great recording bass but not so good on stage - but recently I've hada new custom double-neck built. At the moment I'm attached to the old oneso l can only write on that. I have to break the new one in - I can't writeon and instrument that I don't know well. But the main thing is I likethe double-neck because I've never quite decided if I'm a bass guitaristor a rhythm guitarist because my favourite things are chordal things onthe gaiter to drive the band along.
As for the future since Steve just did a solo album (Voyage Of TheAcolyte) might the nest of you be doing your own?
Eventually, yes. I've started one with Anthony Phillips (thefirst Genesis guitarist but we've had to postpone that because it's veryimportant that I work in Genesis now. Now's the important time to re-establishourselves.