– Mitchell Paul talks to Peter Gabriel about
the past, present and future of Genesis.
Probably from Music Scene, October 1973
Take note of this – in the August 4 issue of New Musical Express the album, ‘Genesis Live’, entered the top 30 chart. The following week they reviewed it. When a group’s record makes the chart before the reviewing scribes can get to work you know the group is beginning to move in a big way.
Genesis is Peter Gabriel, lead vocalist flute, oboe; Tony Banks, mellotron, organ, pianette, acoustic guitar; Michael Rutherford, acoustic and bass guitar; Steve Hackett, 12-string guitar and Phil Collins, drums.
They’ve been together since school. They’re unique in the contemporary music scene. Many groups experiment with lights, smoke effects, film thrown on to large backcloths. Genesis do all this and like others use the mellotron, wander into vaguely classical fields, and wear colourful garb.
What sorts them out from others is the basic concept behind their material. Their musical compositions clothe the body which is a story.
These stories set to music may be short or long, they’re always introduced by the Dickensian vocal tones of lead singer, Peter Gabriel, Dickensian in narrative, cool and crystal clear the tones, dramatic and slightly tinged with mystery, the kind of feel you would expect someone to give if they were telling a ghost story.
Go to their shows and you find an almost theatrical atmosphere. Buy their album ‘Genesis Live’, and you’ll know what I mean, surprisingly, for many a live album fails, but this record succeeds to a large degree in capturing a Genesis show, from the first musical notes on ‘Watcher of The Skies’.
Now this Autumn we have their studio made album. Their music like their theatre is good and in any case the music often comes before the words.
I talked to Peter Gabriel and he talked of their present and, more important, their exciting plans for the future.
“We actually started together as songwriters and then we got this thing about music. We realised the immense possibilities of relating the two, the ideas and images you can get across. “We had these stories set with a particular kind of mood. We try to give them musical atmosphere. “We have not yet made one complete story. We prefer to have a number of stories forming our act so as to get across a number of different feeling situations. “We never decide length but rather let our composing dictate at the time of writing and in consequent mulling over of what we are up to. “We have these times when we look at our recorded stuff and see how we can present such on the road. We try and keep things loose and not lose spontaneity. Actually the live album was something of a surprise to us! “It was originally recorded as an American radio show and since the tapes were there and our Autumn album was only in preparation the company suggested we put them on to the market.
“We realise live albums do present a problem, in that people may come expecting us to do exactly the material they are now so familiar with. The thing is we want to keep enlarging our repertoire and hopefully and to date we’ve managed it, to keep on creating fresh stuff.
“The future seems to hold some exciting ideas. We would like to be somewhere for two or three nights. We would not do the same show. our fans could then come on the three nights and hear and watch us, but have an entirely different presentation.
“Apart from anything else it would be good from the practical point of view. I mean we wouldn’t have the usual road problems of getting stuff around and setting it up! “And then we have ideas of taking a place for say two to four weeks and see how many would come, I suppose! There we could really get lights co-ordinated, stage props and so on. “You know there could be a permanent structure, something to take our projected pictures in all kinds of ways, better quality and visual possibility than the one night stand, hastily erected backcloths.
“There might … well, I won’t go on, for the possibilities are enormous. Live gigs those in the open air are fraught with problems but providing you get something like this year’s Reading with two stages then things can be achieved. “Anyway it’s good to know we are making headway!”
He can say that again! The group which began playing folk type material on two 12 string guitars and then moving to add electric piano, delving into fantasy stories adding to their equipment, building good sound and developing musical theater have a good winter ahead of them and should hit the top in 1974 if not before.
Thanks to John Leach for providing this article for The Path