There was honesty in the air on Wednesday night.
Phil Collins, ’80s icon and former Genesis frontman, proved he can be painfully honest about the more taboo subjects from his highly public life, and still toss out jokes like Halloween candy.
Dressed in a zip-up hoodie, dark jeans, sneakers and sporting a fedora, Collins addressed some of the boldest revelations from his new memoir, Not Dead Yet, to a crowd of fans in New York City.
"I’m a person who bears a lot of guilt," Collins told interviewer, columnist journalist Anthony Mason. But, beyond this type of soulful declaration, Collins also had funny comments about Donald Trump, erroneous critics, and his opinions of the music industry. Here are some of the best moments:
Collins regrets not joining the band The Who.
"I was just a cheap slut," Collins said while remembering his conversation with Pete Townshend. Collins offered to be The Who drummer, even though he was still a member of Genesis (he had also thought about joining Yes). He loved their "raw energy." Unfortunately for Collins, Kenney Jones had already taken up the job.
"I would have left [Genesis]," said Collins. "And I think I would have done the job very well."
Collins’ first divorce inspired him to write "In the Air Tonight."
Collins wrote "In the Air Tonight" after failing to win back his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli. Mason further prodded, asking if he would have been able to write the famous track without experiencing heartbreak.
"I never thought of myself as a songwriter," Collins said. "So in my instance, it took a divorce to kickstart [song writing]."
Eventually even his "doodles" became songs.
"There was no real thought behind it," said Collins about adding the sound that would make "In the Air Tonight" famous. He said it wasn’t until he started playing it for Hugh Padgham, a recorder producer, that they realized it was going to be hit. According to Collins, when Padgham first heard the song he yelled, "What the hell is that?!"
"I don’t claim divine intervention," added Collins. "I just claim right time, right place, a bit of luck."
Collins compared watching Donald Trump to watching a kids’ movie.
A fan asked Collins what inspired him to work on the Tarzan soundtrack (which eventually won him an Oscar). Collins explained that because he has five children, he understands the importance of Disney movies. To him, they’re "little works of art."
When Mason asked him why, Collins said, "There was nothing good on Donald Trump, so I thought I’d have a laugh at something different."
Collins considers music an "enemy."
Mason asked Collins about a quote in which he called music the "enemy."
"I can go on stage and sing the songs and enjoy the reaction and enjoy the affection," said Collins. "I’m okay with it. If I was to go into the studio and… started to write, I’m sure I would fall in love with it again."
He admitted that people are surprised that he doesn’t love the very thing that has brought him so much fame. But, he said, "The Collins family is a family that gives itself a hard time."
Collins used to chase down bad critics.
"When someone says bad things… I’m much better now," said Collins with a laugh. "I used to phone people up."
He explained that after a gig in Indianapolis a reviewer made errors in the article — like listing band members and songs that weren’t in the show, Collins alleged. Collins claimed he called the journalist on the phone. The journalist preceded to sputter and was shocked when Collins said he had read the article.
"You’re not very good at this, are you?" Collins remembered asking the writer.
"I’ve been known to do that, but I’m much better now," Collins added. "You’re trying to make these people understand that there are repercussions to what you do. ‘I didn’t think you’d read it’ is not an excuse.’ "
Towards the end of the talk, Collins discussed his upcoming tour in Europe — his first in a decade. He will perform with his 15-year-old son, Nicholas, who plays the drums. This is a big step for a performer who explained he once felt outdated, and used to wonder if "anyone will miss me."
But with tour dates set, Collins explained he’s eager to play with Nicholas. He also hinted at performing in the United States sometime in the future. Ever the entertainer, Collins wasn’t done.
"Next year we announced some shows," said Collins. "They sold out very quickly. That’s great, but it also means I’ve got to do it now."
© People, by Sam Gillette
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