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Genesis' Rutherford, Banks and Hackett Clear the Air on Awards and Reunions

GenesisOne of the most anticipated reunions of this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will unfortunately not be taking place, as the long-dreamed-of reteaming of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, the recent lineup of Genesis, with '70s bandmates Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel will have to remain a fantasy.

With Gabriel in preparations for his upcoming orchestral solo tour of North America, the band's first lead singer will be noticeably absent. However, the other four members will be present and accounted for as they prepare to enter the Rock Hall. In separate interviews, Spinner spoke with Rutherford, Banks and Hackett about the band's rich legacy, its evolution, whether the quintet that made 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' will ever play together again and if the most recent version of Genesis, with Collins, Rutherford and Banks, is indeed done as a touring act (they say, likely, it is).

This is one of the most diverse classes, as you're getting several different genres and eras represented between yourself, Abba, Jimmy Cliff, the Stooges and the Hollies.

Mike Rutherford: That, to me, is really nice. If it was four or five of the same genre bands of the same era ... I mean, the Hollies, who I grew up with, and then Abba -- it's an interesting combination.

As a music fan, then, what are you looking forward to seeing?

Mike: I'm not sure who's playing live. I think these sort of evenings are a nice celebration and a reminder of where your life's gone, so to speak. And I think it's also a reminder for Genesis, we often forget that a large part of our life has been in North America, touring, traveling, it's been a big part of the last 40 years. And we spend less time there now and we don't tour like we used to, but it kind of reminds me of all the amazing moments we've had over the last 40 years all over America.

Steve Hackett: It's just great that once more America is welcoming us in the way that it did so many years ago. In a way, Genesis is a band that got away with a lot, even back in 1974. Imagine a British band doing an album called 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,' in New York with the singer playing the part of a Native American of Puerto Rican ancestry. It's crazy, in a way. We were taking a New York-based show to New York, but they accepted us. Why, I don't know. It's crazier than fiction, the reality of that. But it's great, it took a long time because obviously Genesis was an obvious band, and, luckily, Americans gave us great, great latitude. And I'll always be grateful for that. America was always a second home for me, and I always loved touring America and I look forward to doing that again.

Trey Anastasio of Phish is going to be inducting you, and you can hear the fandom and appreciation of Genesis in his music. I think there's a direct line from prog rock in the '70s to what's known as the jam band sound today.

Steve: It's funny: It seems what people these days refer to as progressive rock and at one time they referred to as art rock or theatrical rock when we first took the stage, all that stuff Genesis was doing then, seems to be immensely popular now and the idea of the pan-genre that was progressive music in the first place, people are prepared to listen to that now. It's very nice that people are saying they like it because they like the detail and the trouble that was taken making those records. And there's an eye to detail in it and it always fires up other musicians.

Is it disappointing Peter won't be there and you won't be able to perform?

Mike: It definitely would be nice. I spoke to Peter recently, last week, actually. He would have loved to have been there, but he's about to go on tour, he's rehearsing with a big orchestra, it's mainly vocal, had it been a couple weeks either side, it would've been different. But the timing just makes it impossible. So it's a shame. It would've been nice, but then I suppose it's just life, really.

Is it also disappointing not getting to perform?

Tony Banks: To some extent, it's a relief. But, no, I think it'd be nice if Peter was going out there as well, he's not because he can't, other commitments and all that, and [if] the old band was up there with Peter and Steve it'd be quite an occasion 'cause we hadn't played together for so many years. But I think in the end we decided it's perhaps best if we leave it and let people have their fantasies about what we might've sound like rather than hearing the reality, which might not have been so impressive [laughs].

After being eligible for so many years, were you surprised by the induction?

Mike: It's always nice to be admired. I think, in a way, some of our kind of music hadn't been very much relevant or active in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Tony: We were happy to have it, [but] I think it means a lot more in America than it does here [in the UK] and that's, in a way, very flattering that the Americans would give us something. Over here, I'd heard about this before, but I kind of always assumed it was for American bands in particular and more for certain kind of bands, hard-rock bands and more guitars. I felt perhaps we weren't the kind of band they were looking for, so it was very nice. It's very nice to be recognized for anything, I have to say that. As a group, we've had very few awards over the years. I think in Genesis' case, it's slightly special because, obviously, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins have hundreds of awards and people sort of assume because they get them, that's it, really.

What three songs would you pick to introduce new fans to Genesis?

Mike: I would go with 'Supper's Ready,' from 'Foxtrot,' which is the 23-minute song, 'Mama,' from the 'Genesis' album, and 'Cinema Show,' from 'Selling England by the Pound.' 'Foxtrot,' I think, was probably our finest hour with Peter Gabriel, I think 'Mama' is just one of those live moments we captured a rawness we often didn't, and 'Selling England' was because the second half of the song was the longest record of Tony, Phil, and myself playing, one of our favorite instrumentals that we locked into playing as a three-piece.

Tony: In terms of the singles, my personal favorite, which wasn't as big a success in the States but was huge in England, was 'Mama,' 'cause it sort of has all the atmosphere and qualities of Genesis, but it's a relatively simple song. I could also select the most ambitious song we ever did in the early days, which is 25 minutes long and a bit of a cheat really, 'cause it contains lots of different sections but is called 'Supper's Ready' and is completely unlike anything you'll ever hear any other band do. And then one of my personal favorite songs, 'cause I felt it was concise but had a lot of the spirits of the longer songs was the song 'Duchess,' which is on the album 'Duke.' It's not a hit, really, but it's a song that always moves me, still moves me when I hear it now.

Since we're talking about the beginning of your career, what would your teenage self say about one day being in the same Hall of Fame as the Beatles, Elvis, the Stones, Chuck Berry?

Tony: I'd probably say, "Blimey" [laughs]! You have dreams when you're a child. I don't think when I was 11 I thought about any possible career in music. I think when the Beatles came out, then sort of the dream of possibly being in a group occurred to any young teenager. But I came from the kind of background where it was always a very unlikely thing to happen, so it was always a fantasy. And it wasn't really until we started to get to the end of our school career and we started thinking maybe we could have a go and see what happens. But even once you started on it, the chances of ever sustaining a career of any kind are very limited. I would never have any stage at any part, even for the first five years or so of our career, would have thought we would survive or still be popular so many years later. That's the strange thing for me. You think maybe you could do well for a bit, and so many do well for a bit and then fall by the wayside, but to keep it going for a long period of time, I think we've been very lucky.

Mike: I would say that when I left school, we started in the band professionally about age 18 and a half, 19, my ambition at that age, looking two years ahead, was to play the Marquee Club in London. I couldn't see beyond that, so this is a result.

When you think of all the lineup changes and the history of the band, Genesis has really been able to evolve as a group. What's been the secret to that?

Tony: Well, I think we had to adapt in some ways just to sort of keep up interest. You can start repeating yourself a little bit. I think in many ways the transition album for us was 'Duke,' which includes some of what you might call the early progressive-style music, particularly in things like 'The Duke's Travels.' And then also nods to the more commercial [music] that came later. And it's one of my favorite albums for that reason. I think it carries on the best of both worlds. And I think we just wanted to try things differently. We thought, "Well, you've done it this way." And rather than sort of keep repeating yourself, we felt we'll try a few other things. We were lucky that in 1978 we had a hit single in England with 'Follow You, Follow Me,' and a minor hit in the States, and it opened a lot of doors for us, really. Suddenly we could get played on the radio, which we never had before, and we'd always liked short songs.

Is Genesis done as a touring act?

Mike: Yeah, we probably are. I'm sure we probably are. I can't see us doing anymore, but then you never know. We could do some writing or something. Doors are never shut, you know. Phil's not drumming at the moment at all, not properly. But maybe that's OK, too. It's been a great time.

© Spinner, by Steve Baltin

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