|ZZ: You've been on the road now, on and off, for someyears, during which time you must've seen a few changes..... can we startby taIking about the early gigs - where were they?|
Peter Gabriel (for and on behalf of Genesis): Oh, they were verysparse .... places like Friars in Aylesbury, Farx at Southall, a club inGodalming, and a gig, I remember, at the GKN Social Club annual binge somewherein Birmingham - that was for the apprentices, who preferred reggae so wedidn't go down too well.
ZZ: Did you ever do any gigs which were so distant that you stayedout overnight?
PG: Yes - after that GKN one, we slept on the floor of the socialclub, and after we'd signed with Strat (Tony Stratton Smith of CharismaRecords), we did increasingly more gigs and had to stay away quite a bit.We never had to sleep in the van, but we stayed in some pretty rough guesthouses; if you're only getting £30 for a gig and the transport iscosting £15, there isn't much left for hotels - particularly whenyou're using that money for the week's food bill. There was one place weused to stay which was so damp that the bedclothes were actually wet; therooms were like dormitories, sleeping 8 people, and using all Army surplusstuff for the bedding.... it was a lorry drivers' place, I think. Thatwas in either Derby or Blackpool,l've forgotten which, but both those placesstick in my memory for their notorious guest houses.
ZZ: What was the food like at these places?
PG: That was usually alright; the people were kindhearted and usedto give you a good breakfast at whatever time you wanted, which is morethan can be said for some of the more expensive hotels we stay in now,where you miss breakfast altogether if you don't get up early enough....there'sno flexibility about meals at all. What we've been doing lately is bookinginto country hotels, a few miles outside the cities we're playing in, whichare not only more reasonable, but they gTve us a chance to take a morningstroll in the country rather than wake up to the noise of traffic. In fact,it's rather strange and unreal to stay at a quiet hotel like that (becausethey're almost deserted at this time of year) and then drive off to a gigwhere you walk onto the stage to be warmly applauded by a couple of thousandpeopl e.
ZZ: What about transport - how has that changed?
PG: Well, we started off with an old bread van, which used to accommodateall of us and what equipment we had, and then we moved on to a Transit,but now the group travels in two hired cars and we have a lorry for theequipment and another lorry for the lights.
ZZ: So how big is the road crew now?
PG There are seven altogether,and that number will increase, becausewe're planning on taking more extensive paraphernalia around with us. Theoverheads are increasing all the time, but I really think it's worth itand I hope it'll help us to get a lot more through to the audience - particularlythe lyrics, because with a conventional rock'n'roll band you hear a fewwords like "baby" and "all night" and you get the idea of all the rest,but if you're trying to build up a fantasy situation and they're only hearingone word in ten, it's not going to be very effective.
ZZ: But the pa you're using now is as clear as a bell.... I've seldomheard such clarity; what sort is it?
PG: It's a Kelsey Morris, which we are hiring. Yes, I agree it~sa great improvement over what we've been using in the past.
ZZ: Aren't you tending to overestimate your audience a little? Imean, the average rock concert audience is content to wallow in a solidbarrage of sound, where participation is limited to waving your arms about.....there'sonly minimal demands on the Iistener' s m inc. Don't you think that, unlessthey're familiar with your records, the Iyrics just fly right over theirheads, unheeded?
PG: Well, I don~t see any reasOn why that situation should persist;I think a lot of people are trying to break that down at the moment andI think it wil I be broken down to the extent where audience involvementand interest will change its focus. I'm certain that a percentage of ouraudiences listen to us and build images of the music in their minds, ratherthan a more conventional audience which is happy to leap around and joinin I on the choruses - though I don't mind that sort of encquragement myself'especially in 'The Knife! I think the time is coming when the person ofthe artist will become less important in this sort of medium, and thoughthe guys playing the music will be there, they'll be secondary to the music- they won't be the be-all and end-all Have you seen the Red Buddha Theatre?
ZZ: No, I must confess.
PG: Well, they're a very trendy thing at the moment, but I went alongto see them, partly because I felt I ought to educate myself a little,and I thought I'd have to work at that to understand what was going on,but I didn't at all I just sat back and enjoyed it.... but what I'm gettingto is that the role of the musicians, although obviously very important,was to present the music and not to project their egos all the time. Itwas a happy medium; you weren't looking at them all the time, but it wasn'tas far removed as the orchestra hidden in the pit.... it was somewherein between.
ZZ: Yes, but all the business and media surrounding Genesis is surelygeared to the front-page-of the-Melody-Maker thing - the promotion of 'stars'.I can see the music being more important than the musicians in a 'ComeDancing' situation, but not in the pop world, where 'image' is what counts.Do members of the audience ever come up and comment on the group?
PG: All the time. I must say that ! prefer criticism to unreservedpraise, because that, after you have heard it a few times, becomes a littleshallow to say the least. I mean, if you got carried away during the concert,great, but to be told how "wonderful, amaz7ng, fabulous,sensational, beautiful,etc"you were,doesn't really help anybody very much. I suppose I like objectivecomment most, and people who's views are either very positive or else verynegative; I don~t like hoverers but I know that a lot of people refrainfrom making critical remarks for fear of injuring our egos - it's usuallypeople who know us well who come up and say things like "you played a realbummer tonight",and there again, it's easier for us to take criticism fromthose we know and respect. The last gig we did, some guy went up to Philand said "my heartiest condolences", going on to explain how terrible hethought the gig was, and some other guys came backstage to tel I us howvery wicked we were charging 70p when they'd once seen Eric Clapton forsix bob and how he'd got a much better sound out of an old Vox AC30.
ZZ: I reckon if I were in a band, I'd be very glad of praise butvery susceptible to depression if I was criticised.... do you ever getswayed by criticism?
PG SometTmes. For example, once I was got at by a reviewer who foundsomething I did in a particular song rather odious; I can't remember nowexactly what it was, but this guy pointed out how obnoxious he thoughtit was - and subsequently, each time I approached that part of the song,I was thinking to myself "here it comes again" and I'd get very self-consciousabout it - which is the last thing you should do, to start looking at yourselflike that.
ZZ: Did you find that in the old days, when you were struggling forrecognition, the press called you things like "pretentious" and "sterile"and "contrived", because your music was reaching beyond the conventTonalI imitations of a set time-signature, an unadventurous melody and chordstructure, and Iyrics involving "arms and charms" and "loving man and holdyour hand"?
PG: Oh yes, we got plenty of that alright, but then we seemed tofind one or two "allies" who were prepared to I isten to what we were doingand treat it seriously rather than just dismiss it out of hand - and wetend to take mOre notice of their comments than those of writers who'sreviews tend to be superficial or to contain inaccuracies. As far as pretensiongoes, that's something you've got to sort out in your own mind, and onceyou've decided what you're going to do, and you think it's right, you'vegot to stick by it.... but the press man's ego-trap, one feels, is alwaysthere waiting to ensnare the unsuspecting band. They seem to enjoy theglory of discovering a band, and then the glory of destroying it.
ZZ: But the thing there is that although there have always been afew journalists who supported your efforts, none of them can claim to have"discovered" Genesis, because if ever there was a case of a band havingbeen ''discovered" by its audience, you are it. All the papers have doneis latched on to the fact that audiences dug you. What do you think ofthe music press, generalIy?
PG I don't think that the British musTc press is very good on thewhole - not with respect to us particularly, but to the scene in general.You can't generalise, but it seems to me that the informed Journal i stsin other countr i es know their subjects better than those in this country.One thing I've noticed lately is how a Rolling Stone mould is washing throughthe British press at the moment - you know, you start off describing thebuns you had for tea, then you go into the guy's dope adventures, and soon.... l do sense a certain amount of imitation.
ZZ: What do you think of Rolling Stone itself?
PG: I quite like it; I think it's very readable.
ZZ: I think you hit the nail on the head about ''the dope adventures"bit - it seems that they only ever do articles on blokes who have sufferedtortuous withdrawal and rehabilitation after years of secret drug addiction.
PG: Our press doesn't seem to provide any solid support for musicians....they're too fickle.
ZZ: But the weekly papers don't generally work along the lines ofsupporting a certain artist so much as supporting various friends and publicists.If I look through the papers, I can tell which publicists have been toutingtheir clients, because chances are they'll have been on the phone to metoo. I can tell them to get stuffed, but for the weeklies, it's their business....the publicists provide them with waffle every week in the same waythat a clothes factory supplies shops.
PG: Yes, I can appreciate that, but they don't seem to stick withan artist. Take Paul McCartney, for instance; I agree to a certain extentthat some of his post Beatle material isn't as exciting as his work withthe Beatles, but he came in for a really rough time - they almost totallydismissed him. I mean, here's a guy with more craftsmanship at his artthan 90%of all the gods and demi-gods they're creating week by week andthey just threw him in the dustbin. So much of this business is just images,packaged and sold.
ZZ: So you're waiting for the day when, having "discovered" you,they'llbe getting ready to destroy you and chuck you in the dustbin too!
PG: Yes! But I think there are ways of avoiding the dustbin; it'san art which one may or may not pick up as t ime goes on.
ZZ: To change the subject swiftly, can you tell us about your shavenfore lock?
PG: Ah, I have set answers for that one now! Let me trot them outfor you:
ZZ: I see delete where necessary Can I probe you about your interestin Zen, because that's a sphere about which I know nothing.
PG Well, I've read a few books,that's all, and talked to a few people- and the ideas of Zen really appeal to me. I haven't got any immediateplans for booking my ticket to the Z en monastry or anything, but I mustsay that I've found more excitement in Zen than in anything else I've comeacross for a very long time. I find that a lot of the things which appealto me personally - like Spike Milligan, and some of Monty Python - seemto contain elements of Zen, but having saTd that, I find it rather difficultto explain what I mean. One answer to "what is Zen?" was "thatis it", butvery briefly, it's a state where life flows freely,uninterrupted by thetamperings and conditioning of the mind.
ZZ: How did you stumble into it..... were you generally interestedin spiritual realms?
PG: I am interested in those sort of things, yes. There's a hugeamount of knowledge in those areas which will, at some stage or another,become of great use, I'm sure. Yoga, for example.... l can't imagine anyonestudying that for, say, a year and not finding it very valuable. At presentthere is a group of neurologists at Gower St (in London University) whoare studying the spine in conjunction with Yogic learning, and they'recoming up with some very fascinating conclusions which bear out what theYogis have been saying for years and years. The thing is, that once theseunexplained things are noted and "approved" by scientists, they're takenfar more seriously - like the razor blade in the pyramid thing; some scientistsin Czechoslovakia proved without doubt that if a razor blade is suspended,in a certaTn position, inside a pyramid, it wil I remain sharp.... youcan use it and replace it in the pyram id and it won't ever lose its edge.On the face of it, that sounds stupid, but it's beer, sc ient if ical Iy proved.... but we are going off at a tangent here. I beI ieve that thereare a lot of external forces, or whatever you I ike to call them, whichwe don't understand but which do provide guidelines and knowledge to certainpeople at certain times. Audiences, I think, would be surprised at thenumber of musicians who are involved in, and have used, so-called spiritualstudies....people like Bowie, Fripp, Peter Hammill, Jimmy Page, all havea high level of awareness in these things.
ZZ: Supposing readers are interested in following up on Zen - isthere a 'beginners' book you could recommend?
PG: Yes, there's a very good book called 'Zen in English Literature',edited by RH Blyth and available from The Buddhist Society Bookshop, whoseaddress I've forgotten but it'll be in the London phone directory. T hat'sa book you can open at any page and start reading. One of the principlesof Zen is that whatever you're doing, you do it 100'o.... if you're cleaningyour teeth, for instance, you can regard that as the most important momentof your life for that time. .. and similarly, conventionally importantthings can be regarded as unimportant.
ZZ: How does it relate to your singing?
PG: Well, at the moment I'm only on the fringes of Zen really - Idon't have too much opportunity to practice it, but, because of my background,I'm a very inhibited sort of person and I see Zen as a means of releasefrom a lot of these inhibitions - and I'm becoming less inhibited, thoughyou probably do as a matter of course in this business.
ZZ: Let's talk about your visit to America last December (the subjectof a vast tome cal led "To the New World with Genesis", which might evenget published one dayl. Did you like what you saw of New York?
PG: I liked it more than I'd expected to I have this vivid memoryof the streets I ooki ng I i ke a futurist painting, with steam hurlingout of holes in the road, and tremendous energy and speed hurtling fromall quarters, but the visit was over so quickly that we didn't have timeto have a good look round I managed to go to the Museum of Modern Art,but that was about it.
ZZ: There was a great deal of backstage exasperation at the PhilharmonicHall gig - what was that all about?
Tony Banks: We had a lot of equipment problems; everything neededmodification before it would function properly, and then, just before wewere to go on stage, one of the amplifiers blew up completely and we hadto rush out and hire another one, which did nothing but buzz and hum throughoutthe set. That wasn't so bad in the numbers which were loud enough to coverthe buzz, but in 'Supper's Ready', for instance, when there's a quiet passageof three or four minutes at the beginning, it was just so embarassing -we were a l l cr inging.
PG: It was just a shambles; I felt worse after that gig than I haddone for a long time
Tony: Afterwards, we came off stage, Mike threw his bass on the floorand we really thought we'd blown it......
In actual fact, they hadn't blown it, of course.... nobody in theaudience even realised there was anything at al I wrong; they thought itwas a magnificent performance (and heaped loads of "unreserved praise"on the group). (I'm waffling here....trying to get to the bottom of thepage so I can pack uP and go to bed). What else can I say? Ah yes, thisinterview will be continued in Zigzag 30, when we'll be talking about theiralbums and how some of the songs were written. There, that should justabout do it. Pete