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Interview: Mike and The Mechanics UK Tour

With a time-span of more than four and a half decades between his first and his latest recordings Mike Rutherford is showing no signs of resting on his many laurels with an extensive UK tour imminent, two 2CD sets plus his autobiography available this month.

Mike takes to the road with Mike and The Mechanics mid-February for a month-long tour of the UK, with Sadie And The Hot Heads.

Two dates in Kent, at the Central Theatre, Chatham, on February 19, and Assembly Halls, Tunbridge Wells on March 10, are followed by March 16 at Hammersmith Apollo. ‘The Singles 1985-2014’ is available as a single CD (CDV 3118) and a double set (CDVD 3118) with ‘The Living Years: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’ a 2CD set (CDVD 3124).

His autobiography ‘The Living Years’ is published by Constable & Robinson (ISBN: 978472109 811.)

Mike formed Genesis with former Charterhouse boys Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel within the line up and they recorded three singles in 1968. Their first album followed, selling just a few hundred copies and, following a number of personnel changes, Phil Collins joined the group in 1970.

Shortly afterwards came Steve Hackett, the line-up finally settled and success followed. Gabriel remained the focus of attention, with flamboyant theatrical performances, especially in America, and, after a period of friction, he left Genesis in 1975. Hackett went his own way in 1977, and the remaining trio of Banks, Collins and Rutherford began a period of adjustment, with Collins taking over lead vocals which gave the band a more commercial sound while retaining the edge and innovation that was so much a part of Genesis.

Throughout the life of the band, members had always been free to work on other projects, with other artists, or their own solo albums. Rutherford had issued two well-received solo efforts, but felt something may be missing, which leads us to today’s interview, where we began by talking about the forthcoming tour.

This is quite a long tour, is it the same band you toured with a couple of years back?

‘Yes, we basically stopped The Mechanics about 10 years ago when Paul Young died, and Paul Carrack and I felt  the chemistry had changed, and so we wound it up, then about three years ago I had some songs and I thought ‘these are Mechanics songs’.

‘So I called Andrew Roachford who came down, and Tim Howar. We’ve always had two singers, which has been a big plus, a great vibe onstage.

‘So we started off, like the old days with Gary Wallis, and it was like building our name again because we never toured very much as I was always so busy with Genesis waiting around the corner.

‘We went on tour and I was surprised how well they all went down – all Mechanics songs, especially the hits. People knew the songs but maybe not the band, so we’ve spent three years building up the name again, and I’m quite enjoying it.’

How did you meet Andrew Roachford?

‘Everyone I’d met before at some stage – you always pass through promotional things, a gig somewhere, at TV studios. I met Andrew before – I’m not quite sure where – and he can’t remember quite, either, but definitely before, probably somewhere in Germany or Europe. I’m a great believer in things just sort of click you know.’

Did you originally form the band to get your music out there when Phil Collins was becoming so successful?

‘No, the band is the band and Genesis is Genesis. The singer always gets the most attention, that’s only natural, but we’ve all managed to run our solo stuff alongside Genesis throughout our career, and it’s always been a pleasure, and we felt it actually helped the band keep going.’

You’d already had a couple of successful solo albums, why did you feel the need to create another group?

‘I think I realised after my second solo album (which I sang, that’s partly why I didn’t do it again) that I’m happy working in collaboration with people. I think the Mechanics for me was always about doing the same as Genesis co-writing but with different people, and so it sounded different. It felt different from the word go.’

You’re obviously playing smaller, cosier venues now, unlike the half a million in Brazil with Genesis.

‘Yes, some are very small: we came out three years ago and played the larger theatres, but some were so cold, I mean we hadn’t done anything for 10 years, so like was like the old days, doing what I did 40 years ago, building up a following, word of mouth. So we’re playing smaller this time. Most are already sold out, which is great, and that’s what you do keep building up support each time.’

Unlike the old days there are very few venues between 1,200 and the arenas, with just a couple of 5,000 seaters.

‘I’m quite happy with 1,200: in fact, a number of venues are a lot smaller than that, but we’ve found how well The Mechanics work on stage and, with the record sales, everything is good.’

What can the fans expect to hear from The Mechanics this time around?

‘Obviously all The Mechanics hits, plus a couple of Genesis hits. When we originally went out ,we only did Mechanics songs, but now I think it’s nice to give a nod to Genesis as the songs fit well within The Mechanics set. Andrew also does ‘Cuddy Toy’ and, with Tim Howar, we have the luxury of two class singers. Andrew has a R&B voice while Tim has more a Rock voice, plus they vocalise so well together and create so much energy within our 1 hour 45 minute set.’

You’ve just released ‘The Singles 1985-2014’ album’.

‘We’ve put that out – which was rather a nice thing to do because it’s got all the hits on there, and it’s a nice collection of music, and I’m rather proud of it, and if you get the second disc it’s full of B-sides, which is quite interesting.’

The Singles’ kicks off with a new song. Is this something you already had in the can, or was it recorded specifically for the collection?
Mike and The Mechanics Singles 1985-2014 and Living Years
‘The story behind the new Mechanics track, called ‘My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground’ was that we had the singles collection coming out: I was on tour and we were about to go to South Africa for three or four shows in August when I suddenly thought: ‘this is crazy; there’s a new project coming out with Mechanics songs on it; how come there’s no new track with the new line up with Andy Roachford singing and Tim Howar?’

So, I thought, well, we’ve got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before we go to Cape Town, so I had this bit-from-before idea, wrote it on Monday, recorded it Tuesday, mixed it Wednesday. Thursday, flew to Cape Town, so it can be done like the old days – you can record things quickly.’

How did you select the tracks for the compilation?

‘I guess the process of choosing all these songs together for the singles collection package was actually fun for me to do because I hadn’t heard some of the songs for a while and you go back and you kind of go: ‘I’ve forgotten this song, or: I’ve forgotten that song’. The Mechanics had an awful lot of radio hits, as well as record hits, and I think putting it all together as a body of work has been actually for me quite satisfying and really enjoyable.’

© Beat Magazine

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