Sunset Cruise: Were you disappointed by the under whelming commercial reception for Dance Into The Light?
Phil Collins: When you're making a record, you're doing it to satisfy yourself. But when an audience does get to listen to it, you hope they like it. One hopes that one's fans follow you, but sometimes they don't like where you take them. I don't know whether the album didn't do that great because people didn't like it, or that people didn't hear it. By now radio has changed an awful lot, and they don't know where to put me. I'm not a young band, I'm not Top-40, I'm not urban rap. What am I? I'm tied with what I've been doing for the past 20 years. Radio has gotten very compartmentalized here (in the U.S.), and that's a shame. It means a lot of albums don't get heard because they don't fit into a format.SC: There are a lot of interesting textures on the latest record. Where did you draw most of your musical influence from?
Collins: On the "Both Sides" tour, when I was in forced seclusion because the media was downstairs trying to find out who I was with, I started listening to a lot of Youssou NDour. I got all his albums and took them out on the road with me. The music was so up and happy. He uses horns, melody and drums, and that's what I do; I really found a kindred spirit in that. Some of that started rubbing off on the writing.
SC: So you developed a curiosity for world music as a result of that exposure?
Collins: Yeah, but it was much more Youssou NDour and Salif Keita than it was Paul Simon. Most people's knowledge of world music begins and ends with "Graceland." I just started to write from a guitar point of view. It wasn't because I went to Africa for the first time -- we spent three days there; you can't get any influence in three days.
SC: Your percussion style also naturally lends itself to African rhythms.
Collins: My favorite drummer in the '60s was a guy called Roger Powell; he played with the Action. He is my true real drum hero and I followed him everywhere. He got into African music. Ginger Baker was an early influence, and he got into African stuff with Cream. That's what I was doing. Tom-toms and the tribal thing has been something that's been in my music rhythmically ever since "Take Me Home."
SC: Why did you choose to cover Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin' " on this album?
Collins: It's nothing profound. On the first album I covered "Tomorrow Never Knows." On the second album I did "You Can't Hurry Love," and we fool around with Motown tunes on the road. I just thought it would be fun to try it.
SC: Did you find lyrical inspiration in the song?
Collins: When I was doing this last album, I wanted to avoid lyrically going into a "divorce album" scenario. I thought that is something that wouldn't be fair to anybody involved and that people wouldn't want to hear about it. They had heard enough about it from the tabloids in England. I just wanted to avoid it. So to help myself around that, I started to listen to a lot of things to change my environment musically. I thought Dylan is a million miles away from me lyrically, so I wanted to listen to that to get some different imagery lyrically. I put all his greatest hits in my car, and was just hearing that in my car. It's got a beautiful melody and the lyrics could have been written yesterday. I went home and started fooling around with it. When I finished my demo, someone else heard it and it ended up on the album.
SC: Was it hard splitting with Genesis after 25 years?
Collins: There's been days when any of the three of us had woken up and said, "I'm out of here." As you get older and you know what you want to do, you don't want to compromise. There's a perfect analogy with the Monty Python team. They were a group who set the world on fire and they were each strong in different areas. As they got more mature and older, they realized some of the stuff they were doing was a little silly and they didn't want to do it any more. They just couldn't confine those talents around one table because they all wanted to do their own thing. To me, it's an inevitable thing. After 25 years being with a band, I felt that I wasn't being truthful to me. I'm not going to jam my life full of work like I used to. It had its positive side.
SC: Was it an amicable departure?
Collins: They're mixing an album right now with some new guys, and I wish them the best of luck. There's certainly no animosity. Twenty-five years of friendship doesn't go out the window just because you leave the group.
SC: Are you surprised your career has lasted this long?
Collins: I don't really know why people like me and it's good that I don't know because I don't want to get stuck in a rut or formula of trying to appeal to people that like me. The fact is I'm not putting myself on a pedestal. I'm must writing music, and when you write music, a record comes out and it either gets played or it doesn't. It could be that people come to a show to hear the hits; I always hope they come to hear what I'm doing generally. I judge an audience by how they react to the new stuff, not how they react to the songs I know they're going to love. You hope an audience goes with you.
SC: Would you ever give up this line of work?
Collins: I'm certainly always going to write music, because that's what I do. I would love to do more movies, because you can really move people with that. Maybe I will tour less. I don't see me stopping; I see me keeping the touring to a point where you finish it, you still enjoy it. I still love what I'm doing. I'm still proud of what I'm writing. I'm still enjoying going out on stage.