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Q&A: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel: 'My most embarrassing habit? I've stopped wearing habits.' Peter Gabriel: 'My most embarrassing habit? I've stopped wearing habits.'
Peter Gabriel, 63, was born in Surrey. He formed the rock band Genesis at Charterhouse public school and was frontman until 1975, when he left to pursue a solo career. His albums include So, which produced the hit Sledgehammer in 1986. His latest album is And I'll Scratch Yours. This month he tours the UK.

When were you happiest?
When surrounded by my family.

What is your greatest fear?
That we will discover exactly why odd numbers are called odd.

What is your earliest memory?
Sitting in a basin of water under the apple tree, with a mug to play with.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I used to sing one song at the farthest seat from the stage. In some cases, this required me running around from the stage door to the front door to access the stairs. At one gig in Germany, the security guard refused to let me in: he could hear the band playing and thought I was trying to blag my way in.

Property aside, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?
A sabbatical year of travel for my wife, my two sons and me.

What would your super power be?
Effortless flight, anywhere, any time.

What makes you unhappy?
Seeing those I love hurting.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Excess baggage.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The woolly mammoth. I have a friend, Stewart Brand, doing exactly that, too: check out his ted.com talk on de-extinction.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
King Kong.

What is your least appealing habit?
I've stopped wearing habits.

What is your favourite smell?
A baby's head.

What is your favourite word?

What is your favourite book?
The one with the pictures in it.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
The Invisible Man's bandages.

Is it better to give or to receive?
I go both ways.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I enjoy a little gamble.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

What does love feel like?
Pretty good. You should try it.

Have you ever said "I love you" and not meant it?
Of course not – and I have never told a lie.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
All the Israeli and Palestinian leaders armed with lots of pictures of their kids and grandkids, some accurate memories of the two-state solution and some nice Lebanese wine, if it's allowed.

What is the worst job you've done?
Shovelling shit on our dairy farm, especially when the slurry pit was so full, you couldn't see it to avoid it.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Nothing: wrong turns teach.

How do you relax?
Kayaking and swimming, building bonfires and campfire cooking with the kids, tennis and table tennis, cutting secret pathways through the undergrowth…

What is the closest you've come to death?
Twice in a plane: two near misses.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A 48-hour day and the wisdom not to fill it.

© The Guardian, by Rosanna Greenstreet

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