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The Genesis Interview: Turning It On Again With Tony Banks

With a career that spans over 30 years, what was the determining factor for selecting tracks for inclusion on this package?

The decision we made over here, apart from the "Carpet Crawlers," which was kind of special, everything else on here was really choosing what had been the biggest hits. Taking the whole world into account because the same record is released everywhere. So you'll get one or two songs that were perhaps not such big hits in the States, and one or two songs that were big hits in the States that weren't big in Europe. We felt that was the best way to do it, really. Because if we started making too many decisions about putting favorites and things on, we'd probably get rather far away from records that were actually hits. So we decided to go for what were actually the biggest hits for the album. And finding the order was just a matter of getting a way that sounded comfortable so the songs sounded good next to their predecessors and the one after.

Was "Carpet Crawlers" the first time you worked with Trevor Horn?

Yes it was. I've sort of met him once or twice over the years. He produced an album for the Yes, I can't remember what it was called [their 1983 release 90125], but the "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" song was on it, which we were always impressed by. But we always particularly liked his production, from the Frankie Goes To Hollywood stuff through Seal and all that. And I think we thought it would be sort of fun to have someone independent who could sort of control us a bit. You know, getting all of us back in the studio with Peter and all the rest of it, we thought maybe we needed someone to kind of act as referee. Someone with a strong role like Trevor would be good. You know, we don't normally work with producers, so it was kind of a new experience for us, really. But I really enjoyed doing this and we thought he did a really good job.

Have you ever been approached to do trance version of Genesis material like the Pink Floyd remixes a few years back?

No one's approached us, but it's really not our kind of thing, I suppose. But if anyone wants to do anything, they can. I did hear a version of somebody using a part of "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" which was a song called "Three Motherf*ckers." I don't know if that ever got released, but it was intriguing. You can do anything you like with the songs as far as I'm concerned. These are the versions we do and that's how they are, really.

Like Yes did in 1991 with Union, is there any chance you guys will do a reunion tour with a complete line-up supergroup?

I think I can safely say that that is something that will never happen. It's never impossible that some of us might get together in the future. There's no plans at all, but we all get on well. There's no reason why we shouldn't do something, but there's absolutely nothing planned at the moment.

Why do you think Genesis was one of the few, if only, prog-rock outfits that has been able to maintain popularity into the 90's?

Well, I think the reason, obviously, is we started getting good at doing singles at some point in the early 80's that carried us through. I think we made a conscious decision--at the beginning of right about when we released the album Abacab particularly--that we were going to not stick to do the same sort of things, really. We wanted to try to see what else we could do and try to floor a slightly more earthy approach. You know, to avoid the traps that had sort of been, perhaps, associated with us up to that point, which of course is long keyboard solos and big romantic lush chords and everything, and just see what else we could do. You know after that, we kind of incorporated a bit of the early style with what we did on Invisible Touch, but we kept a part of that harder edge as well. Which made us, I suppose, more radio friendly. I think having the hits kind of helped a lot, and obviously I cannot underestimate that Phil's solo success must've rubbed off on the group as well.

Do you think perhaps a bit of it was that you were perceived as not taking yourselves seriously? That you had a sense-of-humor?

It certainly helps a lot. I think sometimes when people take themselves too seriously, it can be a little bit irritating. One thing that's really helped us with our sense of humor is through our videos. With songs like "Land Of Confusion" or "I Can't Dance" and "Illegal Alien" and stuff, where we were able to do videos which were sort of meant to be funny, and the songs themselves were sort of lightweight and you could sort of do them like that. It would be difficult to imagine a lot of those more heavier 70's groups which were perhaps more similar too us back in those days, doing that kind of thing. We always saw ourselves as songwriters, really, and we were always happy to write all kinds of different songs and we just tried to use what abilities we had within the group, and we had someone who was really good at delivering a simpler song.

Are there any studio projects planned?

Not with Genesis. Not at the moment. We're kind of putting the whole thing on hold at the moment. We did an album with a new singer after Phil left us, Calling All Stations, with a singer named Ray Wilson. Which we were very happy with and it did well in England and Europe, but it didn't obviously do anything in the States. We're considering things quite carefully for the future and see what we think.

How about solo projects?

Solo-wise, all I really want to do is to do more film music and stuff. It's been kind of difficult, though. At the moment I haven't really meant anyone who will let me go loose on their film in recent years. I think the problem is, I've done a few over the years, but there has always been big gaps, because we've done Genesis material meanwhile. And it's something of a closed shop, films, unless you're prepared to put your face around Los Angeles for long periods of time, it's difficult to get yourself back on the list.

Like Trevor Rabin [of Yes]?

I've had friends who've done it and there's no doubt the way to do it is to go there. I'd be very happy to do TV music as well in England. That's an area I'm exploring at the moment and I feel might come to fruition at some point. I'm keen to do instrumental music, anyhow, which is not something I've done very all that much of in my career and I'd like to do a little more of that.

Finally, what are new groups or burgeoning music styles that you enjoy?

I'm not a great listener to radio, really, so I don't keep my ear to the ground or anything. There are curious things that come up that I hear, or I get things played to me by my children sometimes, some of which I like more than other things, you know? There's not really too much that I … if I buy a rock CD, it tends to be by someone I've known for awhile, like Sting or someone. I'd not say I'm really a great pundit … I don't really listen. I do think the most interesting group in England is probably Radiohead who are doing slightly more ambitious kind of material.

© CheckOut.com, by Tim Bennett

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