Genesis of A Mechanic 
An Interview With Mike Rutherford

(Interview continued from Page One)

WOG: Was having so much time to contemplate and fiddle with those Rewired tracks a blessing or a curse?

MR: I would rather spend time writing more songs than more time working on less songs if you follow me.

WOG: Do you think that is something that, in a sense, may have hurt the Rewired album?

MR: It took a long time to evolve, which is not always a good thing. Paul Carrack and I like a bit more spontaneity sometimes.

WOG: After you completed Word of Mouth, Adrian Lee and Peter Van Hooke left The Mechanics. Can you tell me why they left and what sparked Peter’s return on Rewired?

MR: Peter’s return on Rewired seemed to coincide… He’s a bit of a producer, Peter. He came back more as an executive producer than a drummer, really. 

WOG: When I interviewed Tony Banks a few months back, he mentioned that you had come to him with the decision that you did not want to pursue another Genesis album after the modest success of Calling All Stations. In retrospect, that an album that you regret making?  

MR: I don’t think I regret anything, really. I felt really good about it at the time, but I think in hindsight I underestimated how big the hill was that we would need to climb with Genesis. I think that what kind of hit us, was that between the making of [Calling All Stations]… agreeing with the concept of carrying on and doing it, finishing it, and finding a singer took about two and a half years. 

In that time, everything seemed to change in music, especially radio. A band like Genesis with a new singer needed to get more radio to be heard. If I had known then what I knew after two and a half years later with the changes in the (music) business, I might have thought twice about it. Not because we couldn’t do it, but because of what was required, I think. 

He seemed to be part of the chemistry that worked well with me and Paul (Carrack) at a time when we were trying to find a new way to work, if you know what I mean… A new kind of dynamic between myself and Paul, and Peter was a good part of it, to make a diversion, that time around.

Originally, I think, Peter left because he was producing quite a bit, and I wanted to get someone a bit more constant. Also, I wanted real drums, and Peter played a lot of electronic drums. 

I did a concert with
Gary Wallis who did a charity concert I did near me that I organized… God, I don’t know, ten or more years ago with Genesis, Pink Floyd, most of Queen, and Eric Clapton… It was a good gig.  Gary was the drummer for that, and he impressed me very much.

Adrian Lee left… Well, I can’t remember now, actually. I think he left because he got in a bit of a grunt about the fact that we didn’t go on tour for that album. The Mechanics have always been a little bit of a stop-start thing, and he wanted something more permanent, I think.

WOG: For the Mechanics’ Rewired album, how did you go about selecting all of the new musicians you involved in the project?
I was probably the main one who did not to want to do another album, I’m afraid. In order to make Genesis with Ray (Wilson) work, we would have had to do an album and tour every year for the next three years. I didn’t want to do that. I’d done that with Genesis and I’d done it with The Mechanics, and I thought to go around again was just sort of not right for me.

WOG: Ray Wilson had mentioned early on when he joined Genesis that there was talk of doing two Genesis albums with him. At what point did you decide to walk away from Genesis?

MR: I’m sure that was the intention, yes. Looking back, it didn’t do well in America at all, really. Aside from that, it probably sold one and a half or two million copies in the rest of the world, which for most bands is more than they ever even get to, you know?

WOG: Back in 1978, when you were auditioning guitarists for the And Then There Were Three tour, you auditioned Alphonso Johnson, Daryl Stuermer, and a few others. What made Daryl stand out in that audition?

MR: I think primarily, because I felt he understood what Genesis was about. There was a guy, a great player, who did a lot of early Steely Dan stuff… I’ve forgotten his name. He’s done a lot of session stuff. He came in and was great, but when he came in, he was about to play “Squonk” with me, and he was like, “How do you want it?” Daryl just understood. 

"In order to make Genesis with 
Ray (
Wilson) work, we would have 
had to do an album and tour 
every year for the next three 
years. I didn’t want to do that. 
I’d done that with Genesis, and 
I’d done it with The Mechanics, and 
I thought to go around again was
just sort of not right for me."

In those days, English bands, in what they did and how they felt songs, was very foreign to the American bands. They weren’t at the same kind of starting point, and I think Daryl understood what Genesis was about, what the songs were about, and how you needed to play them to make them work. I was right, I think.

WOG: Chester Thompson mentioned to me back in 2002 that when he heard that Phil had left Genesis that he contacted you to talk about joining the band in a creative capacity and whether you would consider him as a permanent member of Genesis. At the time, you declined. Can you tell me about why you decided not to bring Chester into Genesis?

MR: Through trial and error. A lot of the guys came through Peter Van Hooke, who has a lot of young guys sending him tapes and stuff. It’s hard to try and change, and I think part of it worked and part of it really didn’t work. I think Will Bates who came along, a sort of programmer/player, was a very good find. He’s quite a brave sound man… And also Rupert Cobb (who did programming on “Perfect Child” and “One Left Standing”). They just came though Peter mainly, through tapes and word of mouth. 

These were unusual choices; these are not the normal session guys who are out there doing all of the albums. These are slightly more avant-garde, weirder guys, which I liked.

WOG: Was it their contributions that largely account of the modernization of the Mechanics sound on Rewired?

MR: Yeah, very much so, but I’m not sure that we got it all right. At least we tried, and I think if we do another one, we’ve put it in a place that we’ll find it a little easier.

WOG: The last time I interviewed the Mechanics for the Beggar on A Beach of Gold album, Paul Carrack and Paul Young mentioned that it was around that time that you started to relinquish some of the creative control around the songwriting process to the other guys. What brought about that change?
MR: Oh God, I can’t remember! Maybe he did, I can’t recall. I suppose with Chester, we had never actually written anything together before. I can’t remember that, really. If he said he did, he did. I think all of our efforts were focused on finding a singer. Everything else seemed unimportant or not so important at the time.

WOG: As a guitarist who evolved to a bass player who has evolved back to primarily a guitarist, I noticed that you’ve been using a lot of synth bass on your records in recent years. Do you find yourself pulling away more and more from using traditional bass on your albums?

MR: No, not really. I love bass. I always forget about how much I enjoy bass until I start playing it. Possibly…You may be right, I probably would like to regress that balance a bit. I think bass is such a great instrument. You express the songs so differently. You can change the feel of the song. Maybe you’re right. I should probably be careful of that.

WOG: We are now in an age when some of the most successful acts of the last twenty years are now finding themselves without a major record label. It sounds like you have just secured a deal in
North America with Warner Brothers, but if you had no major label support, would you ever consider releasing an album independently?

MR: I think it’s very natural, really. I like being in a band and collaborating. I don’t like being in charge. I suppose because of the Mechanics’ history, it’s always felt a bit like it’s my baby, but I don’t really like to work that way. I’m a believer that if someone’s got a great idea - bring it on, you know what I mean? You shouldn’t stifle the creativity of the guys you work with, you should give them every chance to put out any ideas that they think are good.

WOG: Do you think that was the case with the first couple of Mike and The Mechanics albums?

MR: It depends on what level, really. It’s quite hard, because it requires a lot more time in terms of promotion and selling something when you’re independent. I wouldn’t say no, but I would probably question it… 

Yes, I think so. I would sort of feel that maybe if the time comes that you can’t get something that is quite an attractive deal… I don’t mean money-wise, but in terms of being able to get it out to the people, maybe there is a little voice transmitter in the back of your head saying it’s time to stop doing it… Maybe it’s not your time. 

Mike & The Mechanics: Rutherford
(left) and Paul Carrack in 2004

Mike Rutherford and Paul Carrack 
live at Royal Albert Hall in May 2000

MR: Well… Yes, because we were a new band. The trouble originally, with the first couple of albums, was that they were written primarily by myself, B.A. Robertson, and Chris Neil. 

So, writing-wise, Paul Carrack and Paul Young didn’t do so much, but I think it’s natural that as we became more of a band that they became more active writing songs, especially since Paul (Carrack) is such a great writer.

WOG: So, was Beggar on A Beach of Gold really the transitional album that took The Mechanics from being a Mike Rutherford led project to the start of a true band?

MR: Kind of. I think that one made it a little more fuller I think, yeah.

WOG: Tony Banks had mentioned that during the making of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway that there was a period when Peter Gabriel, I guess, needed to be lured back to complete the vocals on the album due to the distraction of possibly working on a script with William Friedkin. In the interim, the rest of the band recorded the instrumentation for the album in his absence, which is why Tony felt so comfortable recording the follow-up album, Trick of The Tail, without him, musically speaking. Was there a point where you felt Peter was just not coming back?

MR: Well, yeah. Pete left, as far as I was concerned, in the middle. He had this offer to do some film work with William Friedkin who did The Exorcist and stuff. He said, “Well, that’s it, I’m off!” So we said, “Well, that was it,” I thought. I think William Friedkin thought “Christ, I don’t want to break this band up,” and he sort of pulled back a little bit and Pete returned. 

Mike Rutherford in concert with 
Genesis on the We Can't Dance Tour

The Mechanics' first publicity photo 
in 1985 with Rutherford (center)

WOG: With the Rewired album, the band’s name appears to have been expanded to Mike & The Mechanics + Paul Carrack. Why did you expand the name? Was that something that Paul wanted this time out?

MR: It sort of seemed the natural thing to do, just to mark a bit of a change with Paul Young gone… Just to give it a bit of a name change, really.

WOG: Are their future plans for another Mechanics album?

MR: I’m not sure about another one. I’ve been chatting about it with Paul and we’re going to meet up in January to talk about it and see where we go. 

This album was fun to make, Paul and I got along really well, and the playing band: myself, Paul, Rupert Cobb on keyboards and trumpet, Jamie Moses, and Gary Wallis felt really good. I mean, it really played well. I really enjoyed the tour this time.

WOG: Now that Genesis is sort of officially disbanded, would you consider working with one of your former colleagues on an outside project, such as some songwriting for something non-Genesis?

MR: Nothing is ever impossible. I always say whether I get together with one of them or even both of them (Phil Collins and Tony Banks), who knows? I always say never say never. There are no plans to do anything together as Genesis or otherwise, but we get on rather well.

I think that was the first time that we sensed that people in the band had other things that they wanted to do outside of Genesis, which was quite fair enough, I suppose. Pete was sort of the first one to see the possibilities. After that, I was not surprised when he left at the end of The Lamb tour. Tony was right in saying that it made Trick of The Tail, after a long double album, a lot of fun to do. It was so contrasting, so quick and easy to make.      

WOG: In your recent interview with Alan Hewitt from The Waiting Room, Tony mentioned that you had recently acquired a copy of the “Genesis Plays Jackson” recordings and that their may be a potential web-only archive release in the future featuring this material. Are their other unreleased tracks you, personally, would like to see included on that release should it come about?

MR: There is one track we can’t find called “The Wooden Bridge” or “Wooden Mask,” I think it was called. We recorded it as a single in a proper studio, and we seem to have lost it (laughs).  

WOG: What year or time frame was that?

MR: Oh God! …It was during the Peter Gabriel period right after Nursery Cryme. Maybe 1972 or 1973? It was a good song, I can sort of half sing it, but I can’t think of how it went exactly. We seemed to have misplaced the masters on that one, which is a shame.

WOG: Classic Rock Productions has put out two unauthorized DVDs, Inside Genesis 1970-1975 and Inside Genesis 1975-1980 which feature your music and video clips. I understand that your management was pursuing legal action on these releases. Can you tell me if this is still happening?


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