Greetings all you fellow worshippers of the three elite sound magicians.
This article I’m posting is from an independant magazine called Music Express Magazine (or ME) which a friend of mine found at Sound Warehouse in Downers Grove, IL. I looked over all the articles I pulled from the Web and couldn’t find this one- so thinking it was rare I thought you all might like to see it. The article is titled No Dancing and was written by a man named Keith Sharp.
Transcribed by John (?).
Genesis was a band that took seven years to notch its first hit single, but these days the trio can practically roll them off in their sleep. Multimillionaires Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford maintain that they’re more than a hitmaking machine, however– and We Can’t Dance is more ambitious than you might think.
The trappings are all too familiar. Major rock group ensconced in luxury hotel suite, peddling the virtues of their latest album release. But in the case of Genesis, Messrs. Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford present the aura of Wall Street bankers rather than traveling salesmen.
And well they should. After 17 albums and more than 25 years together, Genesis– collectively and individually– is one of the most commercially successful units on the planet. When it comes to racking up No. 1 hits, you’d almost think they owned the patent. Colllins, in particular, seems to roll off hits in his sleep. He almost appeared genuinely annoyed when “Groovy Kind Of Love” (from the Buster movie soundtrack) topped the charts. This was getting too easy!
It’s hard to imagine then that the original Peter Gabriel-inspired Genesis forged their reputation as a ’70s art- rock band, marked by Gabriel’s colorful costumes and live theatrics– a band that took seven years to notch its first hit single.
Dressed in the casual elegance which befits multimillionaire rock stars, Collins, Banks and Rutherford would like the masses to believe that the current Genesis is still capable of stretching out instrumentally and is not just some highly commercialized hit machine.
“I was reading a review of our new album [We Cant’ Dance] on the plane coming over here and I thought to myself, these people just don’t get it,” explains Collins. “Critics seem to generalize these perceptions about us being just a commercially successful pop band–which isn’t fair at all.
“They forget that I’ve produced some albums you’ve never heard of, and there’s been some quirky Genesis albums with a couple of hits on them,” he continues. “But for the most part, Genesis albums tend to be weighty efforts with a balance of hits and interesting tracks. Unfortunately, critics tend to forget this and generally sum you up just one way.”
“It’s almost as though critics listen to the first song, skip through the second and then form a general opinion for a review,” adds Banks, entering into the fray. “People think of Invisible Touch as being some incredibly commercial album. But it contained songs like ‘Land Of Confusion’ and ‘In Too Deep.’ And the Genesis album featured songs like ‘Mama’ and ‘Illegal Alien,’ which weren’t your typical Genesis hit records.”
We Can’t Dance, the band’s first collective effort since ’86’s Invisible Touch, finds the trio producing one of their most challenging releases to date. The kick-off single, “No Son Of Mine,” packs the inevitable can’t miss arrangement yet depicts a chilling saga of child neglect, while “Driving The Last Spike” and “Fading Lights” contain ambitious arrangements, allowing the band members to stretch out instrumentally.
Recorded at the band’s Farmyard Studios in the Surrey countryside of Southern England during the spring of ’91, We Can’t Dance follows the band’s usual method of improvising their collaborations on the spot without pre-written or recorded demos. “The only thing that’s organized is where we all sit in the room,” laughs Collins. “Apart from that, anything can happen.”
“Everything you hear is improvised from the moment we walk in the room. The idea is to be as spontaneous as posssible,” continues Banks. “The solo records demonstrate what each of us can do on our own. But when we get together as Genesis, something special happens because we’re writing together as a group and there’s a lot of pleasure in making that collective effort.”
Considering the personal successes rung up by Collins and Rutherford’s Mike & The Mechanics offshoot, you’d think that recording a Genesis album would be almost anticlimactic after all this time. But to the trio, the experience is almost therapeutic.
“When we go in the studio, we don’t think of our past successes or that the Mechanics had a No. 1 record or that Phil just came off a sold-out tour,” explains Rutherford. “When you’re in the studio, you’re miles away from record companies and the pressures of the business. You’re starting from scratch with no ideas and no concept of whether what you are going to do is going to be successful. But there’s that adrenalin of working together with Phil and Tony and seeing how we’ve progressed in the time we’ve been apart.”
Collins concurs that personal egos play no role in the production of a Genesis record. “We’re capable of cutting each other down to size, and we have a crew of four or five guys who are quite happy to cut us down to size if we get too big- headed,” he laughs.
The collective sentiment is that it’s the maturity of the members as individuals which acts as the benchmark for the band’s current success. “It’s not like we’re dealing with three different guys every time we turn up. We don’t change that radically when we’re away from each other,” Rutherford explains. “It’s just that obviously we improve and mature as we go along, and when we do get together we have the confidence to bring something new and challenging to the sessions.
“The difference between our earlier albums and what we’ve done recently is our self-confidence as musicians,” Rutherford continues. “With our earlier albums, we were much more concerned with our instrumental abilities and how well we could play. But as the years tick by, you tend to gain confidence in your ability to play and improvise.”
We Can’t Dance sees Collins playing a stronger lyrical role than is the norm on Genesis records, penning some of his most challenging lyrical themes to date. “Driving The Last Spike” is a particularly ambitious undertaking.
“The song’s working title was ‘Irish,’ and that came from me making up words and phrases as I listened to the music,” recalls Collins. “There’s an Irish-sounding bit in the arrangement, so I thought about labourers and the working class. And then as I browsed throught a book called Railway Navvies, I formulated this idea about the Irish workers who helped build the British railway system at the turn of the century. I mean, when you’re on a train and you’re looking out of the window, you don’t think about being 150 feet up in the air on a viaduct between two hills and how the track actually got there!”
Other songs, like the haunting “Dreaming While You Sleep” (about the nightmares of a hit-and-run driver) and the sarcastic “Jesus He Knows Me” (about TV evangelists) take the 70-minute album in a variety of directions, with the title track effectively capturing its adventurous spirit.
“We liked the phrase, and it was better than other options,” explains Collins. “Really it’s about us putting our little flag in the dirt and saying, ‘We can’t dance, never have been able to. But if you’re fed up with dance and rap music — well, listen to this!'”
In chatting with Collins, Rutherford and Banks, you can’t help but be impressed with their sincerity. Yes, they’re the epitome of a commercially successful rock group; yes, they’re involved — collectively and individually — in almost every worthwhile charity event going (who could forget Collins’ cross-Atlantic escapades at the Live Aid concerts?); and yes, they have that nagging knack of seeming to strike gold (make that platinum) at will. A rock critic’s worst nightmare!
“The negative stuff we ignore,” notes Collins. “The success we live with but we don’t take for granted. We never know from one record to the next what is going to be successful and what isn’t. I’m personally, genuinely surprised at any success I achieve.”
If there is a secret to the band’s success, it’s the entertainment value of their live preformances and the fact that they pursued solo careers after they’d already reached certain plateaus as a group. “We were recognized as a strong live act long before we had commercial success,” notes Collins. “Peter Gabriel set our style in the early days and I changed the emphasis a bit when I took over. But foremost, we’ve always stressed our live presentation. I saw Dire Straits in concert recently and there was no rapport between the band and their audience. You can’t allow that to happen.”
Banks says that while Genesis doesn’t deliberately pre-plan the entertainment value of their live show, the strength of material, the way they structure mini-climaxes in their set list and their ability to communicate with the audience are the key factors in a successful live presentation.
“This way you can manipulate your audence in a way that no recording or video can do,” he allows. “Put on a good show and they’ll remember you the next time around.”
Rutherford theorizes that Genesis is stronger than ever in the ’90s because the individual members have successfully pursued solo careers without sacrificing their loyalty to the band.
“Tony and I were genuinely surprised, and happy, when Phil first started having success with his solo career,” he says. “But we could see right away it wasn’t affecting his commitment to the band. And subsequently as I did my solo albums [with Mike & The Mechanics] and Tony worked on his projects [Bankstatement] we found that our solo experiences brought more elements of experience to the group effort.
“I don’t think we could have done a song like ‘We Can’t Dance’ three albums ago,” concurs Collins.
Replying to the obvious question of what’s the difference between a Phil Collins and a Genesis concert, Banks politely maintains that there’s plenty of room for both opportunities. “For one thing, we don’t perform solo material in a Genesis set, and there’s obviously lots of group material to play,” he explains. “Also a Genesis concert or a solo performance is a rare enough event that there’s always an audience for both.”
The first Genesis tour in five years will hit the road this summer, sandwiched between two new movie projects for Collins. In January through March, Collins (who made his acting debut in Buster) will be in Austrailia to star in Frauds and later next summer will team up with Bob Hoskins and Danny DeVito in The Three Bears.
As for the forthcoming tour, expect the usual Genesis extravaganza, although it will be only 60 dates in length, covering just North America and Europe.
“The last one was something like 102 dates, and it felt like we were on a treadmill,” allows Collins. “Mike has kids in school that he can’t be with when he’s on the road and we’ve all got other things to do besides the band. So 60 dates is it, and past that, ‘We can’t dance so don’t ask us to!'”