"If I play 'In Your Eyes,' it'll take 10 minutes and that might be all the time I have". Peter Gabriel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010, but the ceremony fell during the middle of his tour rehearsals with a large orchestra in England and he didn't have time to take a trip across the Atlantic.
"There was no indication at the time I'd have a second opportunity," he says. "I'm very grateful to have gotten in again. It's a huge honor since it's for your whole body of work and not just a specific project."
Gabriel chatted with Rolling Stone in the lobby of a New York hotel not long after he learned he was being inducted as a solo artist.
Congratulations on the big news.
Thanks. It's a fantastic acknowledgment from your peers and people who work in music.
You're going to go this time, right?
Yeah, I will definitely go. The last time I got in, it was like two days before my tour started. I would have otherwise gone. I just thought, "I can't go. We've given ourselves very little rehearsal time." But it was a great honor. . . Unfortunately, my bass player, Tony Levin, is committed to a prog-rock cruise the week of the event. I have to see if I can do something about that. We want to steal him for a night. The idea is that people have to play, right?
They generally do, but not always. Genesis didn't play.
Oh. I didn't know not performing was even an option. (laughs) Generally, you can either fret about playing and worry about it all night, or you can sit back and have a glass of wine and enjoy the evening. I have to think about that, but this is just great news. . . I'll probably play, though if I do "In Your Eyes," it'll take 10 minutes and that might be all the time I have.
Nirvana are getting in, too. I've seen photos of you and Kurt Cobain talking backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards.
We did talk. I expected to be dismissed as part of the old generation, but he wasn't like that at all. I didn't have long with him, but he definitely changed things, particularly in America. And it had a different sort of quality than what the Sex Pistols in the UK did. I thought that was more contrived in some ways. I was more into the Clash because despite presentation of what Johnny Rotten was doing, there was nothing new to me about the music. But with Nirvana, some of it, just in their choice of chords, there were some musical differences.
With Kiss, they were first putting on their makeup and costumes right as you were putting on a costume- and makeup-heavy show with Genesis.
[Casablanca Records founder] Neil Bogart [who signed Kiss] said that I was quoted as an example of why they should wear makeup. I don't know if that's true or not, but they did create cartoon-like figures. I saw it was very well-executed pop music. I know it was heavy-looking at the time, but I think it was smart.
There tends to be a huge jam at the end of the night between all the inductees. It's hard to imagine you playing a part in that.
I'm not a great jammer. I'm not a great musicians in terms of a player. I think of myself as a writer.
© Rolling Stone, by Any Greene