One Step At A Time
An Exclusive Interview With Ronnie Caryl
 

In addition to being one of Phil Collins' touring guitarists since the Dance Into The Light World Tour in 1997, Ronnie Caryl has a long-standing history with Collins dating back to their early teenage years including working as a guitarist/drummer duo with Collins backing various bands in the late 1960s. Caryl and Collins were also members of Flaming Youth, Collins' last true band effort before joining Genesis.

On May 29, 2005, World of Genesis' own Dave Negrin sat down to chat with Ronnie while on hiatus between touring legs of Phil Collins' First Final Farewell Tour to talk about his career in music, his solo projects, and his recent stint of solo club dates in France.

  We used to bunk off school and just take the day off and just wait there for something to happen. While we were there, we met Brian Chatton, who had this contact with these big time producers and songwriters, (Ken) Howard and (Alan) Blakely, who had big successes with The Herd among others, and they were looking for a group to do this concept album called Ark2. As a result, we became Flaming Youth. 

It’s not like to happened through auditions and big planning. It just sort of happened by osmosis from this situation that used to exist in London in the late ‘60s.

WOG: Were there a lot of extra tracks that did not surface from those Flaming Youth recording sessions?
World of Genesis: Can you tell me about your new band and how that came together?

Ronnie Caryl: My band? Actually, I live in France , and I play a lot of the local bars and clubs and places since about 1996. You know, you meet everybody. It’s quite a small place where we live… and I eventually, ended up with a four-piece band. We’ve made an album, and off we go! We do gigs.

WOG: So, they are all local musicians?

RC: Yeah.

WOG: Do you plan to tour other parts of Europe with this group or, perhaps, other parts of the globe on a small club tour?

RC: (Laughs) It would be a great thing… I don’t know how much you know
ab out the music business, but even though I play for Phil Collins, that’s another world, you know? The world where you make your own album isn’t always so big. I have the opportunity this year. I hope to play some festivals and bigger gigs. After the last tour with Phil starts in September, next year, I hope to expand on that. Absolutely!


WOG: Do you think a new solo album or a group project with this band will be in the works around that next year?

RC: Absolutely! I’m writing little bits and pieces all the time, and I do plan to make another solo album next year.
  RC: Not that I know of. We made a follow up single. So, apart from the album, there was a follow-up single called “Man, Woman and Child” and that was it.

WOG: Was Phil’s departure for Genesis what killed Flaming Youth? Do you think the band would have carried on had he not gotten the job with Genesis?

RC: No, it was long gone before that. Flaming Youth ended up as being kind of a… We had a sax player and we had John Mayall’s brother playing keyboards (Ron Mayall). We ended up being free-form improvisationalists (laughs) in 1970 or whatever year it was. 

Yet again, Phil and I were a duo, and we were hanging out at the Marquee Club, and we met John Anthony, who was Genesis’ producer at the time. He said, “They’re looking for a guitarist and a drummer. Why don’t you two go for the audition?” So, off we went for the audition.

WOG: So, even before the Genesis auditions, there were never any intentions of doing a second Flaming Youth record? 

RC: No. The problem with the Flaming Youth album was while it was ok, and it got good reviews and everything, but I think the Moody Blues came out with
Threshold of A Dream at the same time and they kind of got the big deal, and we didn’t. 
It was just one of those things, you know? A lot of records get released, and some make it and some don’t.



Flaming Youth publicity photo circa 1969 with Caryl (second from the left)
and Phil Collins (center)

WOG: The Dance Into The Light World Tour marked your return to working with Phil Collins after many years. What brought that reunion ab out?

RC: Our relationship has always been maintained throughout the years. Next year, we’ll have been friends for 40 years… which is a long time. We’ve always kept in touch, you know, in respect of what’s going on. The Dance Into The Light Tour, was the first time I had done anything as big as that. 
  WOG: You mentioned that you auditioned together for Genesis. Do you have any recollections of those auditions? When you left, did you have any idea how they went?

RC: We had no idea! All we knew was that in the back of the Melody Maker, which is a famous English pop journal, you’d see in the back pages all the gigs being played. There was always Genesis, they were playing everywhere. We thought, “Wow! This would be good. This would be good fun!”

You have to remember, we were getting 5 pounds per week with Flaming Youth, and (Genesis) were offering 10 pounds per week, and it wasn’t like you were joining The Beatles, you know what I mean? 
 

I’ll never forget the first gig in Tampa (Florida). 30,000 people! (Laughs) It’s quite extraordinary! So, we’ve always been friends. We’ve always stayed in touch.

WOG: So, was it intimidating for you to come into Phil’s band? Not only because of the size of the crowds you’re playing to, but also because there is another guitarist there in Daryl Stuermer, who has been playing with Phil in one capacity or another since the late 1970s?

How did you both sort of find your common ground on who would get which guitar part on Phil’s material?

RC: It was
absolutely intimidating coming into the band, but sorting out the parts was quite simple really. I play acoustic, 12-string, and do backing vocals, so my job is that area, you know? 
 


Flaming Youth circa 1969

All we knew was that this is a band that got a lot of gigs, and we wanted to play gigs. Nobody had any real idea at that point that they were that big. 

I mean, the first gig that I went to see Genesis was at a pub. Of course, they had a fantastic following, and it was very impressive. At that time, they weren’t a worldwide band. They were just a pub and club band that had a good following.

WOG: There is an old rumor that has circulated over the years that Mike answered the door for your auditions in a kind of swanky smoking jacket. Is that true? What were your recollections of the band members themselves?


Ronnie On Collins' Band:

It’s not like rehearsing in a normal band, where you sort of go over things 15 times. If you haven’t got it right, you work it out
at home or go back to your room with your CD player and figure out the solution for tomorrow.
 

  RC: All I remember is that Peter (Gabriel) had a broken leg, and he was in the swimming pool, and there were martini shades outside where we’d rehearse. 

Peter Gabriel went to Charterhouse, and his family were quite well-off people. It was a nice house. Phil and I were kind of like… "Yeah! Swimming pools and martini shades!" 
If there are two electric guitars, because sometimes on Phil’s music there are four or five guitar parts, so basically, we all do our homework and Daryl and I get together and kind of sort out who is going to play what, really. He’s always going to play the solo parts… Usually. 

Actually, I do a couple of them now.  It’s kind of a mutual thing, you know. We have to try and (laughs)… On
Tarzan, and stuff like that, there are dulcimers, mandolins, and 12-strings, and all that. Phil said, “the two of you are going to have to figure out a solution to how best you can play it.” Which we did and we got on very well doing it.

WOG: Did Daryl initially embrace the idea of bringing in a second guitarist?

RC: No, no. It was entirely Phil’s idea. I don’t think Daryl was… um, (laughs) entirely impressed the first time. 

It was a job, because when I joined on for
Dance Into The Light, Phil had done a lot of Beatley sort of stuff and African stuff. I had grown up with some Africa singers, so I knew a bit about African rhythms and about the guitar playing – the East African stuff like that. 

So, there was never really a friction, just… you know, there is the place for two guitarists now.

WOG: Can you tell me about how your Leave A Light On Album came about?

RC: I was in the west end doing a show and my partner, Melanie, allowed me to save up my pennies to make a record (laughs). I made the record, and Phil very kindly played on four tracks, and then I went to try and sell it. 

I went to the south of
France, I went to New York, and nearly, nearly got away with it, but it didn’t happen. It’s just one of those things, you know?

I enjoyed it, because I did it with a lot of good friends who I played with for a long time in England. Everybody was tremendously supportive, and it all came into place for nothing. I took care of the studio and all of that. 
 
  I mean, my audition with Mike Rutherford was on sort of a beach chair (laughs). Right in front of the swimming pool - which was a bit strange. I don’t recall a smoking jacket, I think that’s probably nonsense, actually.

WOG: It was said that you actually did a gig with Genesis. Was that true?

RC: Aylesbury. I did one gig, yeah. I got a second call from them. 

They did the auditions for a guitarist and they couldn’t find anybody. So, I got a second bite at the cherry, so to speak. 

So, I went and rehearsed for three or four days followed by a gig. So, I did the one gig.

WOG: When planning a tour, how does Phil's band go about rehearsals? Do you come to to together totally cold and work out the parts together or is there an expectation that you have your parts already worked out before you get there to rehearse with Phil? 


RC: How it works is about three months before anything, Phil sends out a CD with all of the songs he would like to try to do. 

So, you sit home and you work out the structure of the song and you work out what you think you’re going to play, but until I see Daryl, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do. You kind of cover all fronts and maximize what’s possible. 
As for the arrangements, Phil spends an awful lot of time on the record and there are an awful lot of keyboards and things. I mean, Brad (Cole) may have 12 or 14 sounds going at one time on the show, so it’s kind of weird. We don’t really rehearse. We kind of rehearse at home, get there, and figure out what you’re going to play. Then we do three weeks of rehearsal and off we go!
   

Phil Collins' 1997 Touring Band
Still, I enjoyed the experience. I actually did a second solo album, called One Step At A Time, I just did it two years ago on Outside Records, you should be able to find it on-line.

WOG: How did you get David Hentschel, obviously known to Genesis fans as a producer for albums like
Duke, And Then There Were Three, Wind and Wuthering, and Trick of The Tail, involved on the album?
 

It’s not like rehearsing in a normal band, where you sort of go over things 15 times. If you haven’t got it right, you work it out at home or go back to your room with your CD player and figure out the solution for tomorrow.

WOG: Can you tell me about some of the other projects you worked on as a musician after the Genesis auditions and before the Dance Into The Light Tour?


RC: I’ve known David since I was 18 years old. We all used to work together at Trident Studios; when Trident was the big studio in London. 

He was a Tea Boy/Assistant Engineer, and David and I used to wait up until 6 o’clock in the morning until David Bowie or Elton John had left, and we’d go in and do our little demos, you know (Laughs)? 

So, we’d known each other for a long time. So, when I asked Phil if I could mix the album at The Farm (Genesis’ personal studio), and he said, “Yes,” I asked David if he would do the final mix and he said, “Yes.” It was great!
  RC: I went to a stage school, so I was a child actor. So, I had some contacts in the theater, really. 

I became a playing musician in shows like Elvis, I became Lulu’s guitar player for three years doing two albums with her, I did a long-running West End show were I was lead singer and did a bit of acting. 

It was bits and pieces. I was a jobbing musician, basically. I didn’t do anything particularly famous. I did get the chance to play with Eric Clapton a couple of times, which was great! 

I just missed out on doing a tour with him because Gary Brooker, had forgotten my phone number! …But that’s another story (laughs)!


WOG
: That was just about the only time I’ve heard of an outside musician having work done at The Farm, so that sounds like you had a very unique opportunity.

WOG: How did you and Phil Collins get involved in Flaming Youth?

 

  WOG: Ouch (laughs)! Easy come, easy go…

RC: (laughs) I suppose.
 


























      Ronnie Caryl Live In France 2005

RC: Phil and I were an item, so to speak. I lived up the road from him, and he went to a stage school and I went to a stage school. I was sort of the rock person in my school and he was sort of the rock person in his school. As fate would have it, we met. 

I was 13 and he was 15, and we formed a school ‘super group’ (laughs). You know, with me on guitar and Phil on drums. That’s how we met. We played for other people, and we were a backing band for a black group called the Bloody Ages, we were a backing band for John Walker and the Walker Brothers in 1968, and we kind of went around as a duo until Genesis, which we went to (audition for) as a duo, but he got in, and I didn’t (laughs).
 

SELECTED PROJECTS FEATURING RONNIE CARYL


FLAMING YOUTH - ARK 2
Howard and Blakely produced late '60s psychedelic concept album featuring Phil Collins, Ronnie Caryl, and Brian Chatton. Includes "The Planets", "Changes", "Guide Me Orion", etc. Out of print!




PHIL COLLINS - FINALLY... THE FIRST FINAL FAREWELL TOUR (DVD)

Phil Collins' last big tour! Features Ronnie Caryl and the rest of Phil's band on some of Collins' biggest hits and classics on DVD! includes bonus material including some of Collins' classic videos! Recommended!

WOG: How does Flaming Youth fit in between your school band and your auditions for Genesis?

RC: In the era of the late ‘60s, there was a street in
London, Tin Pan Alley Street. On it, there was a café called the Giaconda. When you’re a teenager, you just hung out there meeting other musicians, drinking coffee and talking about music. 
 
 
PHIL COLLINS - LIVE AND LOOSE IN PARIS (DVD)
Phil Collins and company captured live on the Dance Into The Light World Tour! Includes "Hang In Long Enough", Lorenzo", "Don't Lose My Number", "Easy Lover", "Long Long Way To Go", "Wear My Hat", "Separate Lives", "Another Day In Paradise", etc.
 

 
Special Thanks to Ronnie Caryl for granting this interview. This interview is © 2005-2007 David Negrin and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. 

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