While shock waves of the GENESIS cataclysm still re-echo around the world, we bring you this report direct from the disaster area. And drummer PHIL COLLINS, one of the few men alive today who can fully assess the situation, offers words of assurance to the many, many people who must feel that their very raison d'etre hovers on the brink. By TONY TYLER
SO GENESIS' Peter Gabriel flitted from the popular group on the Friday and by the following Monday Genesis-watchers among the plebiscite were still unaware that The Man in the Papier-mâché Mask was reaffirming, in his own published words, "my bondage to cabbages."
At the same time - and on the same Monday - news desks on the Music Weeklies were throbbing with speculation and we-predicted-it-first-so-we're-not-exactly-caught-bar-assed-isms.
Inky scribes scratched armpits reflectively and murmured, in a 72 pt. trance, EXODUS FROM GENESIS ("No - too obvious. The opposition are bound to use it.") ... GABRIEL HORNS OUT ("I like it."), finally settling for GABRIEL QUITS GENESIS (Not exactly John Donne but the point gets across, don't it?") And while Gabriel was horning out or exodising or even quitting Genesis, the other four members, who'd tended to be somewhat overlooked both before and during the Announcement (not to speak of The Letter), were coolly adjusting to their amputated state and putting into effect certain contingency plans drawn up when Gabriel had told his colleagues that, yes, it was Back To The Land For Him.
When did he tell 'me? One *year* ago. SO, PHIL Collins - neatly bearded and athletic drummer with Genesis, crisply austere Princeling of the Paradiddle - you mean to tell us that for a solid twelvemonth you and Michael Rutherford and Steve Hackett and Tony Banks - not to speak of your record company Top Brass and your own Manager - have been living and working under the shadow of this Departure (or even Exodus)? That during the most important year of your professional lives, cramful of U.S. tours, Eurotours, lauded albums and poll victories *et al* (not to speak of The Rest), you guys have had *this* to look forward to?
You man you've been grafting away like coca-leaf-chewing Bolivian *peons* just waiting for your lead protagonist, ringmaster of kooky effects and composer of stuccoed lyrics to be finally seduced Away From It All by ... cabbages? "Yes."
Actually, Phil Collins is by no means a taciturn man. Nor is he a gabbler. Sort of somewhere in the middle - but by no means inhibited from letting fly with the verbals when he's got a ready answer to the question, which he usually - but not always - has. Bless him, he's taken a tube ride all the way to Long Acre, canvas bag over T-shirted shoulder, just to talk about things with NME. This is absolutely unconnected with the fact that he *didn't* go to Public School. "In fact, Peter first said he was going to be leaving about a year ago, just after 'Lamb Lies Down'. I don't want to go into his reasons too much - he did that himself in the Press last week - but for several reasons he decided to stay on until now.
"Actually, I was planning to leave myself at that time. I didn't leave either. Neither am I planning to." At this point it's only fair to point out certain minor but important tensions that lie around the circumstances of this interview.
NME - with its aggrieved "Gasbag* punters (yours sorrowfully - Genesis Freak, Accrington) to think about - is primarily (but by no means exclusively) interested in the circumstances of The Gabriel Split, Genesis' Reaction, Genesis' plans (i.e., will there still *be* a Genesis?) - and most of all Do they Plan To Replace Gabriel And If So How Do They Propose To Swing It?
[Transcriber's Note: I believe *Gasbag* was the Letters to the Editor column of the NME. I did not save the entire issues.]
On the other hand, Genesis' management, and the group themselves, while conceding that public attention is primarily focused on the etceteras above, are also mad keen to promote an image of Unity And Optimism In The Face Of A Long-Foreseen Setback.
So near and yet so far, and so on:
Could still be a great life if we don't weaken. And anyway there's always the solo albums. So Phil Collins is gamely and honestly and frankly (he even said "I dunno" when I asked him why Genesis, despite loud and consistent acclaim for their elaborate stage presentation job, had never reflected this in album sales - but more on the later) fielding the Gabriel Questions and simultaneously vibing up a good deal when the conversation swivels over to his own wide-ranging musical projects (which it isn't going to just yet because we haven't quite finished with Peter Gabriel). So what are you fellers going to do? I mean, Gabriel isn't exactly a forgettable visual experience, is he? You going to secure a replacement or you going to revibe the Act? If so, how?
"Peter's leaving isn't the blow that some people seem to think it is," says Collins. "Like - the Press have always seized upon Peter and sort of pushed him more than everybody else, when really - "
But he *was* your front man. And he *did* ascend heavenward like his demiurgic namesake ... and he *did* address the audience between numbers in a highly idiosyncratic way ... and he *did* write an awful lot of lyrics.
"Not all of them. People have always misunderstood that. Mike and Tony write nearly as much and very much in the same style - it's a band style of writing, not Peter's alone; it's a product of all of us and the fact that we've been together for five - "
" - years. We've been auditioning singers just recently, in fact."
You have? Aha! Who?
"Well, as some of them are in name bands it wouldn't be fair to say. We've tried out quite a lot though. I'll say this: they could all *sing* alright; it's more a question of finding the right combination of voice, personality and stage presence."
Silence and a deep pull of coffee.
Have you found The Man?
(Sure a lot of coffee in that cup.)
Well, will you attempt to keep The Act as it was so far as you can - and therefore in effect find another PG from the substitute's bench?
Or will you use the different circumstances, the different mix of personalities (Headmasters' Conference Schools 3, Workies 2) in order to effect certain long-yearned-for but hitherto-unattained revibings? In other words, are you keeping it going - if you can - or planning a New Deal?
"We're planning a tour of England next spring or in the New Year," says Collins. "and what people will see, I should think, will be very close to what they saw before."
I see - so the opportunity to break down the Meccano and construct a new model is being passed over then? You guys are going to stick with the investment? (Which is reported to be pretty substantial, and not yet really covered by album sales. Face it, silver is OK but gold is better - and when you have a road show like Genesis', absolutely bloody essential.)
In other words, you're looking for another Peter Gabriel?
Actually, I didn't ask that. What I did do was light a cheap cigar and pause for thought. GENESIS HAVE been going for about five years, maybe a bit longer. For at least three-fifths of that time they've been a massive crowd-puller, a Punters' Delight.
In an era of Symphonic Rock bands gone spare with theatre props and Day-glo Plaster-of-Paris footlight fittings, Genesis 've held their own with the ELPs and the Yesses, equaled and frequently surpassed the Floyds, and totally blizted the Barclay James Harvests. This ferociously assiduous attention to visual detail, carefully cured in with the ornately-varnished lyrics and musical patterns, has been wowing 'em in the three-and-nines (pounds, that is) so effortlessly for so long that their election of the Top Slot (Stage Bands) in most major music paper polls has become as predictable as the 3.10 tide at Wapping Dock.
And during all this they haven't really got much richer. In fact, if Rumor is to be believed (and the Dame can be problematic alright) the bread sunk in the band by various individuals and companies totals . . . a fair slice.
Normally, Sympho-rock bands With The Trimmings, expensive tho' they come, can manage to sell such an excess of long-players that with the first six-month audit period the mazuma comes rolling gleefully home to Mama. It happened with ELP, with Yes, with the Fluid, with Tull . . . but it *hasn't* happened with Genesis, whose music is certainly no worse (to say the least) and whose presentation is vastly superior (to say the least). This is the situation: Genesis don't sell albums. Not in sufficient quantity, that is. Not in sufficient quantity in *America* that is. Why?
"I dunno," says Collins, and for a second he looks almost despondent. But it doesn't last. "I know a lot of musicians don't get off on the presentation we have," he says. "Even though they respect us as individual musicians."
You mean, the sight of Peter Gabriel being hoisted up to Heaven while Tony Banks plays post-psychedelic Hosannas on Hammond doesn't seem like rock 'n' roll to these insensitive guys?
"Well, no . . . I can understand it to a certain extent, mind you."
(So can I - but did Genesis ever *claim* to be playing rock? I don't recall it.)
MIND YOU, Phil Collins is the last block to be worrying about his rock credentials. In fact, his papers are in such good order that a list of his recent sessions reads like a Who's Who of This Year's Thing. I'll mention no names.
Oh, all right - Eno (new album), John Cale (new album), Dave Hentschell (film score), Eddie Howell (album) Steve Hackett and Michael Rutherford of Genesis (new albums).
Collins himself is currently rehearsing/recording/thinking about composing for no less that *three* albums: the new Genesis LP, an album by his own second-string interest, a band called (for the time being Brand X' and The Phil Collins Solo Album.
First, the Genesis album, which does *not* feature Peter Gabriel.
"We started writing for it right after 'The Lamb Lies Down'." says Collins. "I do most of the singing, actually - there's just the four of us. We start recording soon . . . and we *may* feature one or two singers, as guest vocalists sort of, on a few tracks. And when we next go on the road I should think the concert will be drawn from this new LP's material."
Out in the Spring, folks.
"The group I've got . . . well, as soon as Genesis finish rehearsing this afternoon," (he was *en route* for Trident Studios as soon as our interview finished). "I'll be turning right around and going right back in the studio with Brand X.
"They're all mates of mine, actually.
"We play sort of loose, funky stuff. Very loose. we sound a bit like Lifetime."
And a solo album?
"I'll start that later this year. It's mainly stuff that for one reason or another didn't make its way into Brand X songs."
Not "suites", or even "movements"?
Great. But say, isn't there some danger of spreading yourself - your*selves*, come to think of all those other solo LPs - too thin? I mean, shouldn't all possible musical options be going into Genesis, which could still very definitely pay off with a hit LP? Even though, as yet, it hasn't? "I don't think so. Almost everything any of us writes goes to Genesis as first choice If we *all* like it, then it gets in the repertoire. If it doesn't take, it ends up on a solo album. By listening to Mike's album, you'll be able to isolate his particular contribution to Genesis more clearly, by listening to Steve's and mine, the same."
Time moves on and studio time don't come cheap. Tell me, Phil, why didn't "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" Do It in the US? As heavily praised as it was? With Rael and all that spooky sociological stuff? Jungian psychology an' that?
"The trouble was it was a double," say Collins, with the air of a man who's thrashed this particular bone of c. out many, many times in private with others more directly concerned. "That album should have been a single and our *next* could've been a double."
You mean it was a slightly top heavy proposition for the East Coast punters - and a no-hoper for the West Coast, where the group have been far less exposed?
Do you regard all this as a setback?
"No . . . I've got to say, we're all very optimistic. It's a challenge, a different situation."
You're going to hang in there, right?
As much like before as you can make it, huh?
And in the meantime there's Brand X, the solo album and all that prestigious and lucrative session work?
Do you think it'll come to that? You know what I mean . . .
"Don't know. Can't tell. Don't think so. Hope it won't. I'm sure it won't.
"We're all really very optimistic."
© New Musical Express