Eight years ago, Phil Collins, 51, split from his wife, Jill Tavelman, with a fax that wound up on the front page of all the British tabloids. After dishing out an estimated $40 million divorce settlement, the former Genesis drummer-turned-front man moved to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where he lives now with his new wife, Orianne, 30, and their 19-month-old son, Nicholas. Between water-skiing, going partially deaf and writing songs for his next Disney project, Collins also recorded "Testify," his first album of original solo material in six years.Q: Why did you get married again?
A: Marriage is very important to me. It's a statement of how you feel about someone. I had been married twice before, and when I got married it was all for the right reasons. But then stuff happens. The shoe has been on both feet - - I've been the person that's been pushed (Collins' first marriage ended in 1981 when his wife ran off with their interior decorator) and the person that pushed. But I live in Switzerland. I uprooted my life to be with my wife. I definitely wanted to be with this person and nobody else. That's why I got married. It's not as if I don't believe in it.
Q: Do you miss being in the tabloids?
A: Well, you can't think about that. It's the way it is. Not many people can understand the mentality of the tabloids in the first place. I'm English and I understand it, but it's horrible when it's happening to you.
Q: So are you happy being in Switzerland?
A: Yeah. I'm very happy. When I moved to Switzerland, I suddenly discovered sitting around and reading. I discovered going out on a boat. I bought a boat and I'd go out there and turn the engine off and read. I discovered a whole area of my life I had never explored before.
Q: I heard you have also been working on your ski technique.
A: Oh, yeah. It was trial by fire because I was in the papers every day. So I had to learn in front of the cameras. Now I can't get enough of it. Water- skiing in the summer and snow skiing in the winter. Life revolves around that where I live.
Q: Do you have any of those dogs where if you crash on the ski slope, they bring you beer in a little bucket that's tied around their necks?
A: Not yet. But it's not surprising that people go on the missing list. I have been off course a few times with guides, and I wouldn't advise it. You go past holes that are quite big and very deep.
Q: Are you happy?
A: There comes a point in your life where you're doing what you want to do. The future looks fantastic from a creative point of view. You're able to sleep in your own bed at night. So there's a happiness about the general place I've arrived. There's a relief that I'm not competing. I just do what I do, and it's nice that there are people out there who are listening.
Q: Are you in there changing diapers and everything?
A: Oh, yeah. I always was, I must say. Even when I was first married I was changing nappies and taking the kids to school. You tend to overcompensate if you're not there some of the time. Now I'm there all the time. So we all get our hands dirty. We don't have a nanny.
Q: How's your hearing?
A: Two years ago I was struck by a viral infection in my inner left ear. I lost partial hearing, and it has not gotten any better, or worse. It is not serious. Other people are far more worried about it than me. I'd love to have my hearing back, but things could be worse. The doctors say it is nothing to do with age -- things wearing out -- and nothing to do with being a drummer because my other ear is fine. It's bad luck. It could happen to a bus conductor.
Q: Are there any fax machines in your house?
A: No. It's funny because I'm terrible with technology. I still don't know how to send an e-mail. I either phone people up or I send a fax. And every time I say that, people laugh. But (the fax story) is all a myth. I did send a fax to Jill because we were not communicating. The phone was being put down. But just to fax her telling her I wanted a divorce? How could someone do that? I couldn't. I did not do that. But you can't unwrite what's been written, and I've just got to live with it.
Q: That's your red snapper story.
A: What's the red snapper story?
Q: You know, Led Zeppelin, a couple of groupies and the red snapper in that Seattle hotel room.
A: Oh, yeah. That's far more exciting than mine.
Q: It depends on what you did with the fax machine after you sent the letter.
A: I guess. I think we actually stayed in that hotel in Seattle with Genesis. It was right on the waterfront. We were quite excited to stay there.
Q: Is it safe to assume that, when you were there, you guys just sat around staring at each other and waiting for something to happen?
A: Probably. We've been doing that all our lives, sitting around waiting for something to happen.
© San Francisco Chronicle, by Aidin Vaziri