Caught by Surprise! Seconds Out Captured Genesis’ Spectacular US Tour – 1978 Collins Interview
Written by meek on March 25, 1978
Back when Genesis were first testing the water on this side of the Atlantic, it was their phantasmagorical live show, bolstered by elaborate sets, costumes and Peter Gabriel’s thespian thrills, that established them as one of the most challenging acts in the art-rock category. Similarly, when Gabriel left to go solo, it was the musical strength of Genesis’s live show that re-established them as a workable/ artistic unit. In reference to this fact, Genesis have just released a new double, live album, called Seconds Out, which brings together material from their whole career, in the process subtly redefining the band’s focus and basic character (changed even further by the departure of guitarist Steve Hackett).
One major difference with the resurrected Genesis, proven by the live album (on which Hackett makes his final appearence with the group), concerns vocalist Phil Collins’ relation to the audience as compared with Gabriel’s. On stage, Peter’s haunting mimes and icy vocal delivery created a distance between him and the audience, one which Phil seems to have bridged with his more accessible, warmer voice. Could this be a factor in the band’s greater commercial success since Gabriel’s departure?
“I think the distance Peter had was actually good,” says Phil, toiling at a recording studio in Holland where the band is hard at work on a disk of new material. “It’s like Bowie, who has such an aura becuase people know there’s no possible way they could actually meet him. That kind of aloofness-I don’t think it harmed us. Also, our success in the States was such a gradual thing that had Peter been with us now, we’d probably be at exactly the same level of popularity as we are now.”
Phil admits, though, that the band is viewed in more purely musical terms since Gabriel’s exit. “We’re playing the same,” he emphasizes. “But when you’ve got nothing in between you and the people, no distraction (i.e. Peter), then it comes across a lot clearer.”
On the live album this “clearer” presentation is manifested in the harder, more direct sound of the music. Though the lush, dreamy sections of “Afterglow” and “i know what I like” are carried off with perfect sensitivity, the band also comes through with a concussive backbone on cuts like “Squonk” and “Cinema Show” that the vinyl versions lacked. At the risk of sounding too much like the studio versions though, Genesis insist on delivering their songs as unified, structured pieces, eiminating the solo ego-satiations enjoyed by bands like Yes. “We’re all more into writing,” Phil explains. “Doing solos is really more for solo albums, like the Brand X thing for me. We’ve always been more band-oriented than individual-oriented. But actually, we do an awful lot of blowing when we rehearse, and that’s how ideas for songs come together. But once it’s formed, we don’t expand it much.”
Another major, unavoidable difference between live and studio versions is that the band is operating on this album with a drummer (Chester Thompson) and singer (Phil) new to such Genesis epics as “Supper’s Ready.” That song, which takes up all of this album’s side three, was an amazingly difficult piece for Phil to tackle, since it demands a quirky delivery to carry off all the Grimms-like gore and Jean Cocteau-influenced debasement of famous characters involved in the piece’s heady lyrics. To Phil’s credit, he pulls off the song in a most original way, by overemphasizing the humorous parts as if to “comment on them” rather than dramatically “become them” as Gabriel had.
Yet Phil also skillfully changes his approach for the final emotional section, re-establishing his commitment. “Before I started as a singer full-time, I used to sing just the softer songs,” says Phil, explaining his growth as a vocalist. “I think I’m doing better now with the harder tracks. Like ‘Squonk’ was pretty hard. Now my voice has more range. It’s developed a lot since the first tour.”
Only one song from the first post-Gabriel tour is included here-a version of Cinema Show, featuring drummer Bill Bruford.
Recalling that all-important tour, Phil traces the development of his stage manner. “At first I ended up running around like a madman because I had a lot of energy and I couldn’t figure out what to do when I wasn’t singing. I could always pick my nose or rub my bun. I had to work to get my ideas together for projecting out front.”
Though Phil is now Genesis’s permanent front man, in the studio he also handles all the drums. For the album the band is currently putting together, Phil admits a more song-oriented approach will dominate, as was hinted on the last album by the pop-like “Your Own Special Way.” “There are still a few longer songs but there’s very little instrumental work on the album. We’ve cut out those rambling 8 or 9 minute pieces. Most are 4 and 5 minutes now. I guess we’re getting old, we’re just playing songs. If we’d done this years ago people would think it was strange, they wouldn’t expect it from us, whereas now I don’t think people care. We can do what we want.”
A most obvious change for the next album concerns the departure of Hackett. Still, the band forsees no major problems as bassist Rutherford will handle the lead guitar work.
More potentially troublesome changes for the next disc involve the instrumentation and musical arrangements. “Tony (Banks) is usinga new poly-moog and a lot more grand piano and we’re not using a mellotron except for a little bit,” Phil reveals. “There;s not so much acoustic material; also, its more sparsely arranged as opposed to having layers and layers.”
Without those fattening layers, though, Genesis risk losing membership in the ELP-Pink Floyd school of blitzkreig technoschmaltz- a loss which, suprisingly, Phil reveals he wouldn’t mind in the least.
“I don’t like any of those bands except Yes,” he asserts. “I don’t see us as similar to those bands at all. I’d rather be in with a band like Weather Report, who have good taste.”
As an example of the band’s good taste (and marketing sense), Genesis are wisely holding down their solo efforts for this coming year. Phil himself has just done some session work with Brand X and Eno, but otherwise the band will concentrate on the new album and an AMerican tour to take place in late Spring of ’78. Basically the band are not out to establish individual identites and they actually seem to be a bit relieved to have the looming persona of Peter out of the way. “We never put our pictures on album covers because we look just like everybody else. Peter was something identifiable but I’m glad the music is more what they see now.”