John Mayhew Interview Continued...

WOG: Wow! This is this essentially back payment for your work on Trespass dating back to 1970?

JM: Exactly. Incredible isn’t it? 36 years! (laughs)

WOG: I hope you get a nice vacation out of it anyway! (laughs)

JM: I should come to the States, shouldn’t I? Do they have Genesis conventions in the States?

WOG: There hasn’t been one yet, but I will let you know if there is one.

: Thanks.

WOG: In 2004, Genesis released The Platinum Collection, which was a three disc anthology which included “The Knife” from Trespass. I assume you received no residuals for that either?

JM: At this time, as I say, I am in the middle of negotiations with Genesis. It is all looking pretty good at the moment. I don’t want to say anything to rock the boat. So, no comment. I never thought I would say that (laughs)!

WOG: Of course. I totally understand.

WOG: What were your recollections of recording the Trespass album?

JM: Oh yeah! Just bits and pieces really. I remember sitting by the mixing desk for a few hours and watching what was happening there. I recall one of the last tracks we recorded was actually “The Knife.” I remember feeling particularly in the mood to play “The Knife” that day for some reason – that is what I recollect. Not that I didn’t feel in the mood to play the other songs as well on other days, but I really liked playing it that day. It seemed to go well. I had a letter recently from Ant, and he talks [in the letter] about how we were on autopilot at the time. We were just so well-drilled on the songs. Everything was note perfect. So, that it just took over. It was fun.

WOG: Ant had shared with me that there was a demo called “Everywhere is Here” from that period that he liked but didn’t make it to the album. Do you have any recollections of that song?

JM: I don’t know why, but I don’t. Sorry.

WOG: On Genesis’ debut album, From Genesis To Revelation, their then producer Jonathan King has been said to have taken the group’s music in a direction that they were not keen on with string arrangements, and had produced a final product that they were supposedly not thrilled with. When the band went to record Trespass, it was a very different sounding album.

JM: I think they were very keen to maintain creative control, of course. I sense that so much was going on. If I could go back now, I would probably have a much better idea
about what was going on, but at the time I was still very young and quite naïve. Music was everything. I was desperately trying to live up to Genesis’ exacting standards.

WOG: When they were recording Trespass do you think that they had that freedom or do you think that Charisma Records maintained a certain amount of control since the band was still very young and inexperienced in the studio?    
JM: I think that they were just learning to listen to outside influences. Not that they needed to learn hard. For example, they knew that they had to listen to the people who were paying for these sessions. That would be the thing to do. Just like how the softer songs had to go and be put on the back burner and louder, more strident Friday night at the pub sounds were the new order of the day. So, Genesis went through lots of changes at that time, and I think some of that advice would have come from Charisma. They were giving advice right from the start when they came down to hear us in

WOG: So, when Charisma first came to hear Genesis, that was then they said that they should replace you as the drummer? ...Was that their suggestion?

: I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen at those meetings. It was becoming quite obvious. They were improving all the time and probably quite obviously they would have been looking at that. The album contract had been secured months ahead of the actual recording date. In the meantime, we were still rehearsing, just practicing so the music would be note perfect. By the time we got to the studio, I felt like a well-drilled soldier, I think we all did. Especially, after reading a similar account from Anthony Phillips in this letter he sent me a week ago. For me, I was finding it difficult to pull out innovation and creativity. I suppose I should have this glorious history of gigging and recording, but I really was just this guy from the suburbs or nowhere almost. I just somehow managed to land that gig. I did the best I could out of it, and lots of people like it. “The Knife” came out of it, which I am really glad
about. I’m quite happy with all of that. Of course, I would have loved to go down like Phil Collins, but that wasn’t to happen. The other story is just as interesting, I think.

JM: No, but I recently had an invitation to join a band. I went down to see them and… It’s a bit like jumping into a lake of cold water (laughs). Do I really want to go back to this? (laughs). I don’t know if you would be interested in the story of my final gig, which was in Sidney, Australia?

WOG: Sure!

JM: It was 1982, and I was working [outside of music], but I also wanted to play drums. I had brought my drum kit over from New Zealand
. I went out this particular night, and I was driving back. I had about $50 Australian in my pocket, and I was wet and sweaty from the gig. So, I was driving home from the gig on a Saturday night, and it was pouring down rain, and the wind screen wipers were keeping time, and I just said to myself, “This is enough! I want something else new and fresh to come into my life.” There is a city in Britain called Liverpool, and this suburb where I made this decision was called Liverpool. I will never forget that. I think I had my drums sold within about two or three weeks.

WOG: When you left music behind, what did you decide to do?

JM: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I’ve become skilled with a number of materials. I am an artist/craftsman, which is hard to do when you are a trained carpenter. You have to stop thinking of yourself like that and start thinking of yourself as an artist, which I had an opportunity to do at a college in western Australia at a three year course, and got myself a diploma. I’m a scenic artist and set designer and that type of thing. I also make a range of 16th to 17th century French painted furniture, which is being copied and collected and so on. I also want to go back to Australia and build a workshop and make my furniture.

WOG: Is there a possibility that you may consider recording an album yourself at some point?

JM: Isn’t that an interesting question? I don’t know to be honest with you. It’s sort of a huge project and I would need lots of input from many others. I am not sure how to put the team together. I mean, who would do that? I would need all kinds of things. But why not? Live a little! If I had other people like Anthony Phillips or, although I haven’t spoken to them, Tony or Mike... or anybody else for that matter. I’ve only talked to Ant, and he blew me away when he wrote to me, “No, you didn’t hold back Genesis’ creativity!” I’m still living on that kind of high, really. To realize that so much time has gone by now that the issues that were there, which weren’t really any kind of deep routed resentment or anything of that sort. It was all quite fairly light weight, you know?

WOG: How did your move to Australia come about in the first place?

JM: I got divorced. I met her when I was playing in a band in Norway. We got a divorce after about three and a half years of marriage, and I just wanted to get the hell out of there, and went to Australia. I arrived on my mother’s birthday on January the 18, 1982. I didn’t look back, really.

WOG: For many years, you have pursued a different craft, but is that the reason that you rarely grant interview about your Genesis days? Or, is that just a personal preference?

: Good question! It wasn’t conscious at all, it was just habitual. I just thought I would turn my back on the band. I thought, “Oh Christ! I really stuffed that up for them!” I thought it best that I just walk away quietly...You know that sort of feeling?  

WOG: Had you kept in contact with anyone in the band?

JM: No one at all. I made a couple of weak attempts on occasion, but nothing serious. I never thought about meeting up with them. I just thought we’ll just wave that goodbye and quietly walk away as I said.

WOG: How did you come to hear of that Genesis Convention in May 2006 in the UK

JM: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of an artist named Charles Riley McIntosh. He is a Scottish designer and furniture builder. I went to this workshop to learn how to build his furniture, which is really quite complicated. Anyway, there was a guy there called Dave Burgess. He recognized my name on the list of trainees and said, “Oh, it can’t be!” A group of us were talking about music, and I said, “Yeah, I used to play the drums…” and at that very moment, Dave came to the door. He’s an absolute rabid Genesis fan, who’s father turned him on to Genesis. He decided to ask me. He was so pleased to meet me, that he contacted Genesis management, and it all took off from there. I heard about the convention from Dave as well.

WOG: Did you know that Anthony Phillips would be there?

JM: I had heard that he would be there, and I thought that was going to be quite scary. He completely put me at my ease. I was not expecting the reception I got! I ended up giving him a big hug at the end when I was walking to the door. It was quite the reverse of what I expected. I thought he might say something like, “You were the one who nearly wrecked Genesis!” ...Just a joke, really. I was suspecting a mild negative reaction though.

WOG: Someone had mentioned that you had joined a Genesis tribute band on drums for “The Knife” at that convention?

WOG: When you did record Trespass, you had no idea that Charisma or Genesis might have been already planning to remove you from the band, correct?

: That is all supposition about Charisma’s suggestion to the band may or may not have been. Who knows?

WOG: How did you find out that you were being dropped by the band?

JM: I took a trip to a coffee shop in London. Mike Rutherford was there and Peter was there. I think it was Peter that said to me, “How would you feel about leaving?” And I said, “Sure.” I acknowledge that now, and I have a tear in my eye, you know? It wasn’t an acrimonious parting or anything of that sort. It was quite sad. I felt quite sad.

WOG: So, it was completely their idea for you to leave? It sounds like you knew it might be coming?

: Well, it was a bit like somebody under sentence. Eventually, you’re going to get sentenced and I would like to think I knew it more and more. I say boldly that I was pushed out or that they asked me to leave, yes all that happened, but I knew it was coming. There was no pretence. I didn’t speak to anyone about it, but I could see that they were going to places where I probably wasn’t destined to go. So, C’est la vie! Wouldn’t it have been lovely… and I had my fifteen minutes.

WOG: Progressive Rock was fairly new in 1970. Were there any bands that Genesis considered their rivals in this new style of rock music?

JM: Not rivals. No. Rivals is the wrong word. Bands like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer and bands of that time. There were loads of others. I don’t think Genesis saw themselves as rivals to anyone. Only temporarily on the touring circuits perhaps on who might take top billing at a gig and who is going to do support. Not in the adversarial sense. I suppose if you ask the others, they might say that they had some rivalries, but I guess that might be enviable, isn’t it? I think they were far more focused on the music and the events that sort of carried them along, which they certainly were.

WOG: Do you have any recollections of the "Genesis Plays Jackson" recording sessions? There has been some talk that these recordings may be released at some point as part of an archive release. How would you feel about these tracks seeing the light of day?

JM: I would be absolutely, perfectly comfortable with its release. They were a part of the history of Genesis and the kinds of slings and arrows that got thrown their way (laughs). I seem to remember… I’ve experienced it with my own work. So, I know what it’s when you have a rhythm going or a groove going, and you’re producing. Then, probably monetary or the need for publicity or something of that sort comes along, and you’ve got to let that come into your world. I seem to think that the BBC recordings are something like that. They were bits and pieces from that which never made it to any songs, but as for remembering them with any clarity, I count really remember them myself. I think bits of “The Fountain of Salmacis” got woven in there, but that is all pretty vague now.

: Were you aware that Genesis has remixed the entire Trespass album in both stereo and 5.1 surround along with the rest of the Genesis catalog for a as yet to be known release date? If so, were you consulted on the new remixes for Trespass?

JM: Oh, really?! I’ve got to have that, but then you have to have a surround sound system. Oh dear! Well, once I get my money from Genesis, I’ll think about that. Now that it’s being forced upon me.

WOG: Now that those tracks are remixed, there are different schools of thought
about a different producer remixing music that he wasn’t involved within the first place. What if your opinion about Genesis producer Nick Davis remixing Trespass?

JM: Well, two things. The guy is probably close to a genius anyway. So, I’m sure that Genesis would have chosen wisely. They usually do.  They other thing is that did he need to be there? Genesis music was always very personal to themselves. Anybody outside of it would have retained a kind of heart
about their relationship to the music. I don’t see any problem at all with someone who wasn’t there originally remixing the recordings. Anyway, we’ve all heard the original, and now there is the remix and so on. It’s like copying a painting. It doesn’t detract from the original if there are a few copies made.

WOG: So you were not consulted on the remixes?

JM: No.

WOG: When you left Genesis, did you continue to pursue music? Do you still play drums now?

JM: Yes, I joined Nigel Appleby, who is the drummer for ReGenesis at the convention on “The Knife.” Although it hasn’t been 36 years since I played drums, it had been that long since I played “The Knife.” I just fluffed and flaffeled my way through it. It was more important that my bum was on that drum seat, I think, than what I actually played that night, because I couldn’t give any guarantees at all that I knew how the song went anymore (laughs)!

WOG: Were you surprised at your reception at this event?

JM: Yes, I was. I couldn’t believe it. I am just waking up to the fact that I was part of that, which seems silly really.

WOG: In closing, do you have a favorite or least favorite moment during your tenure in Genesis?

JM: My favorite moment was being in that studio and recording “The Knife.” I can’t vividly remember recording the other songs, but I can remember recording “The Knife.” That lovely sort of beefy, fruity feeling. That’s the sort of feeling you get. It just felt right, right, right. I have such respect for them, and I like them as people, so much. We didn’t have to do things over and over and over again. That’s the moment. Another one would probably be during quiet moments when I got to read all of George Orwell’s essays and letters in the cottage where we rehearsed for Trespass. There was a little library, and that was nice. I have lots of little pictures, that I’ll hold for another time. I’ve got no hanging dark regret. I do have some regret that I wish I knew then what I know now and so on. That I wasn’t a bit more wisdom or insight of them or me. Obviously, there were differences between us, especially with me who was ‘working class’ and the rest of them who, obviously, were not. It was remarkable that it ever came off at all, really!

John Mayhew Selected Discography

Genesis - Trespass (MCA Records)
Original U.S. pressing (non-remastered)
Click here to buy it!

Genesis - Trespass (Virgin/Charisma Records)
European Definitive Edition Remastered Edition
Click here to buy it!

Genesis - Archive Vol. 1 : 1967-1975 (Atlantic Records)
U.S. 4 CD Box Set of Previously Rare Recordings
Click here to buy it!



Special thanks to John Mayhew for granting this interview, Dave Burgess for helping to coordinate our meeting, and "Kiwi" Dave Yardley for the John Mayhew pictures. This interview is © 2006-2007 David Negrin and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.  

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