Genesis had been dormant for a decade when Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford staged a worldwide 2007 reunion tour. Before that, they hadn't done any studio work with original singer Peter Gabriel since 1999, when Genesis re-recorded "The Carpet Crawlers" as a five-piece band.
A variety of things – not least of which was Collins' lengthy health-related retirement – continue to keep them apart. Still, the others stayed busy. Banks has nurtured a second career in classical music, capped by his latest album Five. Gabriel has toured regularly, but has been largely silent in the studio, while Rutherford and Steve Hackett remain active with their own separate projects.
When Collins made a halting return to the stage, however, it inevitably sparked new questions about another rebirth for Genesis. Banks joined us to discuss the possibility of a studio reunion, prompted by the fact that the band is commemorating a signature moment in 2018.
We're at the 50th anniversary of the band, so perhaps the classic lineup could re-record another song? SinceCollins has been having trouble playing drums, Chester Thompson could fill in. Collins and Gabriel could trade off on vocals. Well, I don't know. I think it's unlikely, really. I think if we're going to do anything, we should do "The Silent Sun" since it's the 50th anniversary of that song. We don't really plan too much, and Peter's a terribly difficult person to tie down. I see him every so often, but ... [Laughs] he's so difficult, really – even if he's enthusiastic about it. He was 20 years ago – or almost that long ago – when we did the last Genesis reunion. About five years before that, there was talk about doing something with Peter, but Peter was ... [Laughs] originally into the idea, and then it became difficult. Even getting everybody in the same place at the same time is impossible, really. The only chance you've ever got is Phil, Mike and I together, but even that's a long shot because of Phil not quite being where he was 20 years ago.
Just record the parts individually and swap them through email. Then get latter-era collaborator Nick Davis to produce it. It's probably better in fantasy than in reality anyhow.
There's not much information out there about the sessions for "The Carpet Crawlers 1999," even though it has such significance in the history of Genesis. Peter's idea was to use [producer] Trevor Horn since he was neutral territory: None of us had ever worked with him. The vocal, the way it switches between Peter's voice to Phil's voice, is really strong on that. The arrangement I'm not 100 percent crazy about – the little, skippy drums all the way through it – and the chords are a bit unsubtle, but it wasn't bad at all. I haven't even listened to it since he we did it, actually. It was nice working with Trevor; I'm an admirer of his. He's a talented chap, so it was fun to have done that. We had a good time just getting together at Peter's studio at Real World. Good food. We ate a lot, as I remember – and played a lot of tennis. [We did] about an hour in the studio a day, which is the way Pete tends to work usually, which is the trouble. So, we moved into Peter's place, which was quite interesting. I don't know, though. It won't happen again.
Listen to Genesis' 1999 Remake of 'The Carpet Crawlers'
Speaking of revisiting the past: "Renaissance" from your new album Five originated from an older recording – and you then built on that for the finished piece. I know you've hung on to songs for years during the Genesis days until they found a home later on. Songs like "In the Cage" and "Fountain of Salmacis" were written years before. With "Renaissance," I had this little piece I'd written back in 1998 or something. And at one point, I did try to do a bit of film music, and I wasn't too successful in terms of getting commissioned. But I made a few demo tapes, and one piece I had was this drone idea followed by this little melody, and I always thought it was really nice and could develop into something bigger. So, when I was doing this record, the idea of using a choir on the suite was the orchestrator, Nick Ingman's, idea. We'd already talked about the previous four pieces, and I thought it would be great to have one piece where the choir was really dominant. And since I had this little piece that already had choir ideas in it, I thought I'd made it more choir-orientated. And when I started developing this original idea, which was only around a minute, it came very quickly and ended up with this moody bit and then almost like a song, the final part, which has a strong melodic theme and some of those wistful chords that are very Genesis-y, I suppose, and which were always one of my major contributions to Genesis. I think the final part is very optimistic – and sometimes I'm very sad and moody. It's almost happy. [Laughs]
Are there other ideas, perhaps from the Genesis era, floating around that never found a home? I have a few song-type things at various stages. The earliest one I still refer back to probably dates back to the '80s. I have a few bits and pieces, one or two things I like. If I ever do anything with drums again, these things might re-emerge. But they tend to be more song-like – less progressive, if you like – in many ways. I'm not inclined to use them. I think there's a sort of filtering process that goes on through your career, and everybody will end up with bits and pieces they didn't use, and there's normally a reason for it. They're probably not as good as what you did, or they haven't got the same sort of feel.