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Speaks of New Life with Girlfriend Orianne Cevey and Without Genesis

But unlike many homegrown stars, Phil, 46, who describes himself as "basically an ordinary bloke from Hounslow" was always happy to stay based in England. Until 1994, that is. That's when he decided to move to Switzerland, home of Orianne Cevey, a then 21 year old heiress who had that year captured his heart - during the breakdown of his second marriage. And the changes didn't stop there. Soon afterwards, he decided to leave Genesis. Here he tells us how all this came about and how he feels about his life now.

Why did you move to Switzerland?

"I fell in love with a lady who lived here, so I moved here: it's as simple as that. I came to play on April 24, 1994 in Lausanne, and I met this lady and fell in love with her, pretty much straightaway. And then it got messy, and I never went home again."

"That's what happened. I didn't choose Switzerland, and probably, if I didn't have this reason to be here, I wouldn't have lived anywhere but England. But my lady works and I wanted her to keep working, while I can live and work anywhere and fitted in very well here. It's a very lovely place."

Do you feel like a stranger here in Geneva?

"No, this is my home. I have one home, which is here, and I never wake up thinking what am I doing here. This is my home."

But wasn't it difficult move? You'd lived in England for over 40 years.

"No, it wasn't hard. It's bizarre, because I always said to myself, I can't imagine living anywhere else. And here we are, in another country, with another language. I don't own the house, I rent it, but hopefully one day I'll own it. I love it here, it's very peaceful, I have made some new friends, and I write. I live the same kind of life here I would anywhere, as I lived in England."

The next major event in your life was your decision to quit Genesis. Had you been thinking about leaving the group for long?

"For about three years. In the middle of my writing and making Both Sides, in September '93, Genesis did a concert with Queen, but I didn't enjoy it. I went on stage and sang, and as I was singing these songs, it didn't feel natural. Obviously it was bad timing, going just like that from doing my most personal thing to a Genesis thing and back. But it definitely felt like, "What am I doing here?", like shoes that don't fit anymore."

"I got home that night and thought, this is very interesting, and a couple of weeks later I decided to leave the band. And, as soon I decided , it was like a cartoon in my mind, all the clouds and mist disappeared and there was open sky. I love Genesis, but life was getting very complicated. The more success I had, the more success Genesis had, the more pressures and the more demands there were on my time, and I just had no time for anything else, no personal life."

"Eventually Mike and Tony and I got together in my manager's house for lunch to discuss it, and the guys were fine, they realized that it was over for good."

Had they expected it to happen?

"I think we'd all expected it from somebody for the last ten years maybe. Everybody got a little older. Everyone has a family. Everybody wants to do other things besides the group. It's the same situation as for the Beatles. It's very hard to keep three or four grown-up people's ambitions the same."

"You're not all twins, you know, so things change, and I just felt they understood. It could have been them, but it happened to be me. So they were fine - disappointed, sad, because one doesn't want these things to finish. But you understand, you go off and do your own thing. And Mike sends his love to me. Tony I haven't seen, but I wouldn't normally, that's the way he is. When I do see him it's all hugs and kisses, you know. It's OK. They're carrying on they've got a knew singer. I don't know anything about him apart from his name, but I wish him the best of luck. I really want the band to succeed."

Phil, do you feel that you were the band's star?

"I don't feel like one, but the singer of Genesis or of any group is the star, because he's the person people take the photographs of. I know the spirit of Genesis will stay the same, but the cosmetic side will change: I was the voice of Genesis, I was the guy at the front of the stage and in the videos so that's why it's going to be hard."

"Musically, it will be fine, but from the cosmetic, image point of view, it will be very different."

How do you feel about your public image as a funny looking, bald middle-aged guy who can't dance?

"Just because you have a song called I Can't Dance, everybody thinks you can't dance. In fact I got medals for modern jazz dancing at drama school."

"I am what I am. I guess we all have these preconceived images of what pop stars and film stars should be like. They should young and perfect. And if they haven't got hair, then it's because they chose not to, as opposed to having no choice." "It doesn't bother me. I am just a musician, so whatever I do has to come from a musical standpoint. I'm not interested in the image."

Have you always avoided having a particular image?

"I never thought about it, never needed it. People tend to think my non-image is an image, that I work on it. I am a reasonably nice guy, but they think I work at being nice because they can't believe that anyone in my position, with so much money, can be so nice."

You must be one of the top selling artists of all time, having sold 200 million records.

"I know, I find it hard to believe. I guess if you add up all the Genesis records the world over for the past 25 years, and all my own stuff... 200 million is the figure I keep hearing, 75 mine and the rest Genesis. It does seem like an awful lot of records. If it's true then I am quite proud of myself."

"You see, bands like the Stones and The Who don't sell records. They're fantastic bands, but they don't sell. I was always surprised by that."

Do you think people consider that you're not up-to-date any more?

"Possibly. In England, maybe they think I deserted because I don't live here anymore, which is a shame. My career is in a very strange place at the moment, because in a way I don't care. I do what I do and I know I've just made a good record. Both Sides is my favorite record of all my past, and I really wouldn't change anything about the latest one, Dance Into The Light, but though it's sold fantastically well in Europe, in America - which has always been the Phil Collins flagship - suddenly everything has changed. It's interesting, I do want to know why. but if everybody has their 15 minutes of fame, I've had maybe two or three hours already."

In one Austrian magazine, they called your latest album a "musical mid-life crises". What have you got to say about that?

"When I left my wife for a girlfriend of 21, it was looked on as a mid-life crisis, but I had an unhappy marriage. I met someone who just happened to be 21. She's very, very together mentally. She's not a young bimbo. I guess my critics would say I fell in love with her because she is attractive. The fact is I fell in love with someone because my marriage was in a bad state. And now I am very happy. Is that a mid-life crisis? I don't know. All I know is why I did it."

"It is not a mid-life crisis album, but it seems that someone somewhere has to have a little hook to hang it on. This album is a happy one, lyrically it is up-tempo, it has some African beats, lots of real drums, optimism."

"I just make a record, and if someone says it's a mid-life crisis album, I don't care. All I can do is respond, and you know, it does make you want to stop making records."

Why do you carry on?

"Because I like doing it. It's what I do, I write songs. Sometimes when you put an album out, they think you're showing off, but what I'm doing is putting out an album for those of you interested. This is my newest offering. The next one might be better. I am not showing off."

You're doing the music for the Disney production of Tarzan, isn't that right?

"Yes, but it's a three year project and will take another two years to complete. It's fantastic. I'm involved in something that will last a lifetime, a Disney movie like Bambi or Snow White. I watch those films on my own now; they're great pieces of art, pieces of movie history. And soon I'll be part of movie history."

You have a world tour coming up, arriving in the UK in November?

"Yes. This spring I start with a two month American tour."

Bob Geldof did Live Aid, Sting cares for the rainforest and you sang about the homeless - are pop stars better than politicians?

"No, because when it comes down to it, you can't be that simplistic. We have very simplistic ideas, like, there are homeless people, so let's build more homes. But it's not really as easy as that."

Is it hard to be Phil Collins?

"It is getting harder to be me. It's a very interesting time of my life. For the first time I'm really coming across failure, and it doesn't bother me. I'm quite philosophical, it's like the 15 minutes of fame I mentioned earlier. Nothing can last forever." "I don't want to retire, but I'd rather retire gracefully than be made to do things. I guess the whole music environment is changing. One minute you're up and the next you're down It's like a world I don't understand any more."

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