Tony Banks interview continued...

It’s kind of difficult with a solo career over the years. I’m always starting from scratch in terms of an audience, I suppose. I’ve obviously got the people who follow what I am doing, which is fantastic, but to get any further than that has never happened for me ever, really. When a Genesis project was going, that was easy, because they always did so well. It’s a little difficult starting every time from scratch, and as soon as you put something out, you wait for that reaction. You sort of grit your teeth a little bit. Having said that, the response to this has actually been pretty positive, so who knows?


Genesis in 1974 (from left): Collins, Rutherford, Banks, Gabriel and Hackett.

WOG:  Were their any compositions you demoed for Seven that did not end up making it to the project because they did not transfer as well to the classical genre?

TB: No. The fact is I ended up using everything. Originally, the piece I thought I might not use was “Neap Tide.” I wasn’t sure if it was necessary, because there were quite a few slow, soft pieces on there. I thought maybe that the others were better. The final piece I wrote, specifically because I thought I needed it was “The Ram.” I wanted something with a bit more bounce and rhythm, and also a bit more optimistic. You know, for the final section. I wrote that thinking in those kinds of terms. That was the most recent of the pieces written. So, everything turned out pretty well. I wasn’t quite sure whether they would. I mean, during the arrangement stage and everything, and it all sounded good, so I thought, "I’ll use the lot! I’ll call it Seven rather than Six." 

WOG: On your solo projects, you have used some incredibly respected musicians like Pino Palladino, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Mo Foster to name just a few. How do you go about selecting the session musicians for your projects? 

TB: It’s a bit like that, really. With Pino Palladino, I met him through Paul Young. When we were on the Invisible Touch tour, Paul Young supported us and Pino was his bass player. When I would go out to the front (of the stage), I would find that I would find that all I would listen to was the bass parts and not too much else. I just really loved his style. So, I had had it in mind to use him. In terms of all of the drummers and things, Steve Gadd was wonderful. 

We were struggling to find a drummer when I did the album The Fugitive. The guy I was working with said, “Well, what drummer would you like? Who do you think is the best drummer around?” and I said, “Steve Gadd would be great.” He said, “Ok, let’s give him a call!” 

Fading Lights: Banks (far right) 
with Genesis in 1997

So, we gave him a call, and he just happened to be coming to [
England] to do a session with Ringo (Starr) at the time.  He popped down to me and did three songs in three days. It was quite a thrill for me because, at that time, he was one of the drummers I have really admired.

So, its just trial and error, really. In the case of Vinne Colaiuta, I heard him on Nick Kershaw’s album, The Works. I just thought his drumming was fantastic on that, because it’s just so musical!

: Speaking of older scores, over a year ago, there was talk of the reissue of The Wicked Lady on CD. Where are you at with that reissue? Are there other archive type releases such as demos, b-sides, or outtakes from your solo career that you would like to see released?

TB: As far as The Wicked Lady goes, we talked about putting that out purely as sort of a website item (through the official Genesis website), which is still something I would like to do. The reason it got sort of shelved was because of what happened with the change over with the (web) site being run by EMI over here, which is still not completely settled. I don’t think the website is as good as it was. I think we need to make sure that we’ve got a few things sorted out a bit to make sure that we have the right situation in position for things like the (on-line) shop. 

As a group, we would like to put out, and what I think people would like, is that we have so many old board tapes and things like that (from Genesis shows) from the early days right back to the ‘70s. We like the idea of putting them out, so that if people want them, they can get a hold of them. All of those things are in the pipeline, but we want to make sure everything is in the right state before we do that.   

WOG: Much has been said about the reissue of Genesis titles remixed in 5.1. How involved have you been in the process, and do you anticipate releasing any of your solo albums, including Seven, in this format?

Nick Kershaw’s music bears some relationship to what I’ve done on solo records in a sense because its what I might call quite extravagant pop based music, and I really like that kind of thing. [Steve Gadd] was able to make funny time signatures sound ordinary. He made things sound really good. He’s a fantastic drummer. I think of all of the drummers I have worked with, he’s probably been the best!

WOG: With Seven behind you, will you resume your rock solo career?

TB: I really don’t have any plans of any kind at the moment. I just don’t know. I do sometimes get the desire to do something with a heavy beat behind me, know you? I wanted no drums or rhythmic thing of any kind on Seven, which was quite refreshing, actually. But now, I get the urge for that sort of pounding sound behind me. 

I would like to do a rock album again, but it’s getting increasingly difficult. I mean, it becomes the stage where whatever I do will probably have to be just a web-release. I would really have to struggle to get any sort of record company to release it now, I think. They really won’t do anything unless they are guaranteed big sales or feel that they are guaranteed big sales. That’s where it’s at. So, that is one possibility or another classical thing or just bide my time and not do much.

WOG: Does the concept of going completely independent discourage to you?

Banks on the 1997 Genesis Tour

"In places like Columbus
(Ohio) on the last tour, we
had done something like 
80,000 people and, after a few weeks of
sales for this tour, we sold about 20 tickets..."

"I’m not trying to prove 
anything. I haven’t got to convince anybody.
I don’t have to worry about reviews
or anything like that."

TB: I’ve been quite involved with it. I mean, Nick Davis has been doing the main work on it, but Mike and I go in and approve and make suggestions and that sort of thing. The idea with the 5.1 remixes is not to change them too radically. I mean, upon superficial hearing, they should sound kind of similar – just better. If you do something properly in 5.1, it should just sort of have all of those qualities. 

I have to say, some of those things sound really good. We’ve done the whole of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and we are working on Trick of The Tail at the moment. Obviously, we did the 5.1 mixes for the two live videos (
The Way We Walk and Live At Wembley), which I think worked really well. Particularly, the live (material) makes it more different than anything, because you can really capture the atmosphere better, I think. 

WOG: Have you determined that the next 5.1 project will be?

TB: After we finish Trick of The Tail? The videos, I think, will be the next thing. It will be a compilation of all of the music videos we have ever done. There will be 5.1 mixes for all of the tracks. That is the next logical thing to do. There are one or two of them done already, because there are songs like “Robbery, Assault, and
Battery ” that will be done. We’ve also done one or two of them for other projects. So, we’ve done the odd here and there track as well. We have about 25 tracks to do, I think, in 5.1. We’re going to work this out in probably a week’s time. Again, Nick Davis will be doing it, and we’ve got a system going now, so it all works pretty well.
TB: Well, the problem with it a little bit, is that you minimize the possibilities, I suppose. I don’t really mind it. I quite like the idea of doing something just for the web; it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not trying to prove anything. I haven’t got to convince anybody. I don’t have to worry about reviews or anything like that. You are just doing it for people who are familiar with what you are doing, and they can say, “This is good” or “This is bad.”

It’s a different approach. I don’t mind that, but I think you are committing yourself to something you know is just going to go no further, and that is a mind set that you have to get used to. Having also worked with Genesis, when we would put out a record, you kind of knew it would get a big audience. There is a certain kind of excitement about that, I suppose. As a web release, you are kind of almost doing it for yourself, and you have to change your whole way of thinking. I have to say, where I am in my career, it does appeal to me in many ways, because I don’t really want to try and prove things too much. It gets sort of tiring.

WOG: Back in the mid '90s when you were first thinking about replacing Phil Collins in Genesis, there were rumors that you and Mike Rutherford were considering people like Fish, Paul Carrack, and Paul Young (of Mike & The Mechanics) for the lead singer role. Were any of those rumors true? Who else, other than Ray Wilson, did you consider or audition at The Farm?

TB: Other than Ray (Wilson), the only other person that we seriously auditioned was an unknown guy. I guy called Dave, but you would never have heard of him. We auditioned them both, actually trying them on tracks. We never considered anybody else. 

Banks (far right) with Bankstatement

Paul Carrack was obviously suggested, but the thing about Paul is that… Well, for starters, I don’t think Mike wanted to particularly mix-up his two careers. That was one reason. Another was that we didn’t think that Paul would be able to cope with the Genesis back catalog, which we felt was important because we wanted to do it live. His voice is too pure. He has a lovely voice, but it would have been a very different thing. It probably would have been an interesting project, but anyhow we decided not to do that.

: Prior to Phil Collins needing to take a break from Genesis after the …And Then There Were Three world tour, had you given any thought to pursuing a solo career?

TB: The first time it occurred to me as when Peter (Gabriel) left before Trick of The Tail. I did seriously consider doing an album then. I had written things like “Mad Man Moon” and bits and pieces of stuff that would later become “Entangled” and “Ripples” and stuff. So, I thought if doing a solo album, using those kinds of pieces as a starting point. But it really seemed to me that it wasn’t really moment for that. If we were going to carry on with Genesis, which we decided we were going to, we obviously had to put everything into it that we had and try to make it as strong of an album as possible, I think.

We had about a three month break there, and rather than do a solo album, I put in my own central heating, which was a more useful thing to do at the time, because it was very cold (laughs)! So, from then on, I kind of thought about it as a possibility, and when Phil took a break, I had quite a bit of stuff stored up at that point, and I thought it would be good to do it.
We never considered anybody else. We really didn’t want to go to any other “name” person, honestly. When we came across Ray, we really liked his voice. We knew he was not going to be able to do everything. He has a great sort of gravely voice and could get some of that sort of moodiness back that we quite wanted, but we knew that he was not going to have the sort vocal ability to carry a melody the way that say Phil did, I think. So, it was a big change, and I think Calling All Stations was a change-over thing.

Funny enough, I wasn’t that keen to do another Genesis album. When Phil left, I just said, “Let’s just leave it. Let’s just say that we had a fantastic time and call it a day. And, possibly in the future sometime, if Phil wanted to do something we could have a go again.” I wasn’t really looking to try again, but Mike was keen to try.  When we started writing stuff, and we got really get enthusiastic about it. So, that was all good, really.

After we had done that album, I was quite keen to do a second album. I thought, “Well, we’ve got a band going here now.” I even wanted to use the drummer and guitarist that we had used on the tour and everything, but Mike was less keen on that. 

WOG: In 1989, you released Bankstatement, which was your first group project outside of Genesis. What inspired you to seek out a band environment rather than record a more traditional solo project?

TB: I think it was Mike & The Mechanics, really. Although it was given that title, it was really no different from any of the other solo albums. It was exactly the same, which was also true of the first Mike & The Mechanics album. By giving it a group name, you give it the possibility of changing the focus and making it seem more like a band. It was quite fun to work with the same people and get a kind of thing going. That was really all it was about, I think. Of course, I guess it really didn’t make much difference in how things went. I don’t know, I think that there are a lot of things that, I suppose, could have happened with that album, and it didn’t.

In the case of that first Mike & The Mechanics record, the album was such a success that it gave Mike (Rutherford) a vehicle, if you like, to do further projects with the same line-up. I suppose, if Bankstatement had been successful, I would have been tempted to do the same thing. When it wasn’t, I went the opposite way. When I did Still, I decided to use as many different singers as I felt I wanted. I didn’t see much point in restricting myself. I thought, “Well, it didn’t work, so let’s just use whatever singer I think is right for a given song.”

WOG: How did you get together with Steve Hillage for the album?

He was suggested by Virgin (Records). A guy called Jeremy who works in sales there who was sort of one of the A&R guys. He had the demos of what I did, and he was very enthusiastic. He suggested Steve as someone who could take it slightly away from where it had been before.

He felt that perhaps… He was worried that after having done one album that had not gone down fantastically but that a lot of people would kind of bought it on spec... Mike had been disappointed with it. He thought if we did it again, it might just be the downhill slope. So, we decided that we didn’t want to do that. Genesis had been just a fantastic thing, we decided let’s just leave it on a high rather than try to take it right down to just doing the low sales again. So, we decided to knock it on the head.

WOG: So, you have no regrets about not taking Calling All Stations on tour across
North America ?

TB: I would have loved to have done it!  We have a lot of regrets about that (laughs)! That’s probably primarily the reason why the band did not carry on. We did budget for a tour. We had a pretty extravagant stage set and everything going, and we put the tickets on sale everywhere. In places like Columbus (Ohio) on the last tour, we had done something like 80,000 people and, after a few weeks of sales for this tour, we sold about 20 tickets. Well, what were we supposed to do? We couldn’t go there. We were ok with playing smaller places, but not as small as that! There were a few Canadian shows we could have done. That was about it. 

Everywhere was just not selling at all. Not at all. Plus, the record was not being played on the radio anywhere, so we were in no position to tour. So, we changed the stage set. (Laughs) We got rid of as much as we possibly could, because we lost a great deal of money doing the tour. We did (tour)
Europe , because the sales were a bit better there and everything, but after that experience, we decided that we wouldn’t do it.
Steve was more of a Producer in a sense and slightly less of a co-Producer, although we credited it as a co-production, because I can never keep my mouth shut, I suppose. He did have slightly more influence on some of the things. I mean, the song “Queen of Darkness” was a version of something on the previous Soundtracks album, and that was totally Steve’s idea to do that. He just thought it was a good riff and could go somewhere. 

It was quite fun, and I think also by using Steve, Jeremy was very enthusiastic about him as well as about the album. [Jeremy] was really convinced that the album was going to be a big success, and he was so behind it all the time. Of course, when it came out and it didn’t happen, it was a bit of a shock really for him. He really thought he had something there, but that’s the way it goes, really!

WOG: Is that how you originally hooked up with Jack Hues for the Strictly Inc. project as well… by recommendation?

TB: Yes, it was, really. Nick Davis had done a couple of songs with him for a solo album, which still hasn’t come out, actually. I heard the tapes, and I just liked his whole style – both his writing and his voice. His voice was quirky, but he could still carry a melody, which I thought was a really nice thing. We met and got on really well. It was just a great, fun project to do. 

I was very surprised when the agent or promoter suggested that we do the American tour at that level. I said, “Look, we haven’t got Phil. God knows what is going to happen! Shouldn’t we just go in playing a few theaters around the place? We can go in, get people excited, and then maybe we can go back and do some bigger stuff.” I was basically talked out of it, and the decision was to go straight into the big places and that obviously did not pay off. It was a difficult experience.

WOG: When I interviewed Steve Hackett a few years back, he mentioned that you were initially considering playing on his Genesis Revisited album but later pulled out of the project. After he had talked to you about the project, why did you decide not to participate?

TB: The main reason I didn’t do it was because it was just as the new Genesis album was about to come out, and I thought it was just going to confuse the issue. Also, I’m not terribly keen on going back over old ground. I mean, when Steve asked me, I thought, “Well, why not! I have no reason to say no to him; it’s his project.” Then I decided, “Well, maybe its going to be a bit funny if I do it, so I won’t do it.” 

WOG: As a rule, why have you chosen not to appear on other musician’s albums? Is there anyone who you would consider doing session work with?

It was an attempt again at doing something slightly different, more like group approach. I wanted to call the group Incognito, but there was already a group called Incognito, so we had to stick with Strictly Inc. He was nice. I also think that there was a good combination of writing with him. The way he did a couple of songs… What he did with the lyrics worked.     

TB: In terms of making guest appearances on other people’s projects, I don’t know. I haven’t been asked very many times to be honest. Also, I’m not really a very adaptable player. I tend to do what I do. Whatever I do, I carry with me.

When I have been working with session musicians, most of the time you are amazed how adaptable people are. The drummers are always adaptable; and some of the other players are less adaptable, really. You have to just take what you get. 

Honestly, I wouldn’t be happy if somebody said, “Play this in a country style.” I’d say, “Well, I don’t want to do that!” So, that makes things difficult, I think. I’m always happier writing than playing anyhow, so I’ve never really thought much about playing on other people’s things.
WOG: When I interviewed Chester Thompson, he mentioned that when he heard that Phil quit Genesis that he approached Mike Rutherford about taking over the drummer’s seat permanently and becoming a formal member of the band. Obviously, he did not get the gig. Was it a difficult decision given your history with Chester not to make him a member of the band?

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