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Q&A with Genesis musician Mike Rutherford

Mike Rutherford, 68, co-founded Genesis in 1967 and remained a member of the band until its final tour in 2007. He formed Mike and the Mechanics in 1985.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
I had no ambitions until The Beatles came out when I was at prep school. There was a sound, something going on there, and I wanted to be part of it.

Private school or state school? University or straight into work?
I had a happy time at prep school on the Wirral in Cheshire. Charterhouse was not so good. I caught a weird moment of disruption in the English establishment, a wave of change. A lot of boys ran away. I was beaten a lot and thrown out after O-levels. Being involved in the band with Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel kept me sane.

Who was or still is your mentor?
I haven’t got a personal mentor. My father was much older, born in 1906. He was a wonderful man but we couldn’t talk — there was little communication. Musically, The Beatles had to be the most important: the goals they set, it’ll never happen again to that level. What they produced was something I aspired to.

How physically fit are you?
I was a very keen polo player for 25 years. Nothing can compare to that adrenalin. Now I cycle.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
You need ambition and you need talent — but you also need timing and luck, which you can’t control.

How politically committed are you?
Right now, I’m disappointed in the entire system. It’s like a bizarre joke.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I’d like to be able to fly. Nothing else could give me that kind of freedom. And one of those incredibly expensive road bikes that cost a fortune and weigh less than my phone. I could afford one, but I don’t deserve it.

What’s your biggest extravagance?
It’s definitely been polo. The plus is that my two sons play and my wife plays a bit. I had this wonderful sharing of a sport that is so exciting. It really was an extravagance — but the memories make the extravagance more bearable.

In what place are you happiest?
With my wife, wherever we are. It’s about the person, not the place. We are 43 years married.

What ambitions do you still have?
To play an impressive round at the Dunhill pro-am golf tournament.

What drives you on?
In terms of work, purely to prove to myself that I can still do it, that I’m good at it, that I can still write music that people want to hear.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
My family: three great children, and four grandchildren. That supersedes work.

What do you find most irritating in other people?
Lying. People who lie and won’t admit they’ve lied. It’s fundamentally unsettling.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
He’d be completely unable to believe what’s happened in terms of work and the success that’s come to him. When you’re 20, the future is about three years ahead. The future then was to play the Marquee Club or maybe to do a show in America. Travelling the world was way beyond that ambition.

Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
I had a wonderful white Gibson SG guitar, which I used on quite a few records — you can see it in videos. It went walkabout — whether someone borrowed it or took it, I don’t know. It was a lovely guitar, unique.

What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Dealing with new technology and communication. You can communicate with anyone, round the world, all the time. The problem is that no one’s in the now — in the place where they are. We can’t stop progress, but we need to learn to deal with it.

Do you believe in an afterlife?
No.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Ten. The other day someone said to me, "Is your glass half full or half empty?" I said, "My glass is up to the brim." The past 50 years have been an amazing journey. I feel very lucky.

"Out of the Blue" by Mike and the Mechanics is out now, mikeandthemechanics.com

© FT, by Hester Lacey

Video

Mike + The Mechanics - Out of the Blue (Official Video) Mike + The Mechanics

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