1967 – the World watched on as San Francisco experienced it’s ‘Summer Of Love’, and listened on as music reached the dizzy heights of psychedelic rock; Classical music seemed to be drowned out by the screams accompanying The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who …
Meanwhile, at Charterhouse school – one of Great Britain’s finest ‘public’ educational establishments in the idyllic English county of Surrey – a handful of budding young musicians, were busily trying to prove to their masters that banning guitar practice as a punishment for missed homework, would not stop the musical revolution that had begun to happen within it’s own splendid Gothic walls!
Unsurprisingly, there is a noteable list of ‘Old Carthusians’ – including the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, amongst numerous artists, actors, poets , sportsmen, TV personalities, journalists, politicians, and Bishops! – but we doubt that they could ever have imagined that they would also nurture, and eventually include in that list, the founder members of a band called … ‘Genesis’.
Perhaps you have heard of them?
Peter Gabriel, Michael Rutherford, Tony Banks, Christopher Stewart, and … Anthony Phillips.
Despite his departure from the band in 1970, Ant has never strayed from his musical path.
His solo discography boasts in excess of 30 albums; in addition to that he enjoys an incredibly busy, and successful career as a TV and ‘library’ composer; and has been involved with a number of musical projects including collaborations with fellow ‘Genesis’ band mates Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins, and Peter Gabriel – but it hasn’t all been plain sailing …
Over the past couple of years, Cherry Red records [via Esoteric Recordings label] have been re-releasing said discography, with whole manner of extras; meticulous detail has been paid to putting together remasterings, alternate mixes, and stuff that hasn’t been heard until now. Within the boxed sets are also 5.1 surround sound versions of the original albums. They’re absolutely gorgeous things to have in any record collection!
The latest treasure trove is “Private Parts & Pieces IX – XI” – another brilliant 4 disc set.
It’s my favourite so far – the Private Parts & Extra Pieces III disc, is just superb.
There’s a clip here which gives you an insight from the man himself as he talks about Dragonfly Dreams (Private Parts and Pieces IX) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBLSQ4t8U4I
And for your delectation here’s a chat we had to Anthony a little while ago …
HR – So where did your musical journey begin?
AP – I was pretty much self taught at school.
I studied music later, but in the beginning I was self taught.
I briefly had guitar lessons from a chap who was very impressive.
My mum used to buy me the Beatles sheet music, and kindly send it down to me at ‘Charterhouse’ – and this chap would just look at them and read from the piano score, with guitar ‘shapes’ written in fret numbers as opposed to tablature – and he would play the chords and the melody on this beautiful classical guitar.
I just wanted to be able to strum the chords to the songs and sing along really, and I think at the time he was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t prepared to go the classical route …
Anyway I didn’t.
Then formed a band at school – doing Rolling Stones, Beatles, Kinks, Animals, The Shadows – Hank was a big influence – and that took me up to starting to write my own stuff; A lot of it with Mike Rutherford.
I met Mike when I was 13 – the other Genesis guys were quite a bit older so we didn’t get together with them for a couple of years. The school band – The Anon – was people more my age.
I was the babe of Genesis!
HR – Indeed – and with that in mind, how much input did they allow you to have on the debut album – “From Genesis To Revelation”?
AP – The first album I didn’t do an enormous amount of writing – it was very much dominated by Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks.
The second album – “Trespass” – was much more of a ‘group’ album.
In fact, myself and Mike were responsible for the basis of 3 or 4 of the tracks on “Trespass”.
“Visions of Angels” was my piano track originally.
Songs like “Looking For Someone” were Peter Gabriel songs that the rest of us developed the instrumentals around.
I had a reasonable amount of stuff on “Genesis To Revelation”, but Mike had very little – we came much more into play on ‘Trespass’.
HR – You’d left the band by the time their 3rd album was released. Did they take any of your ideas forward into “Nursery Cryme”?
AP – Actually, I was responsible for mucking about with a few ideas that ended up on the album, way before I left – Mike had this weird tuning of F# which we played about on. That song became “The Musical Box” later – so, yes, a couple of ideas made it.
HR – Do you ever listen back to the first two albums, and hear things that you would change?
AP – I don’t often listen, no – and I haven’t listened to them enough to have any really strong thoughts.
I think if you don’t listen for a while then it’s quite pleasant.
If you have a period away from these things, you tend to forget what you thought was wrong, so then it’s not so bad – but I must say that when you listen repeatedly, then you start to think “oh dear”, I could have done that differently.
We all felt that the business of putting strings on “Genesis To Revelation” – which necessitated reducing the backing track to mono -was a bit of a disaster.
Whilst our playing wasn’t the best, the album had a rough, raw power to it which, that process of adding these high wheeling strings to, made it lose something, and anodyne, perhaps.
I know that our producer was trying to give it a more commercial edge, which I understand, but I don’t think it really came off – and it was at some cost too!
HR – Would you re-record or re-mix any of it again now, in your own way?
AP – No I don’t think so. I think it is of its time really.
The other thing of course is that it’s physically impossible now.
That reduction process, means that things were erased, so we can’t get back to the original stages even if we wanted to.
That’s all changed now, mercifully, with computers .
You can get back to any stage these days – providing you remember to save it!
HR – Ah, yes! The wonders of modern technology. And … NOT saving things! [laughs]
AP – Yes – we’ve all done it!!! It’s all so easily done.
We take too much for granted with technology.
You can become over reliant on it, and lazy! I do fall into that trap myself sometimes actually – musically.
I don’t think enough about original sounds I just tend to buy virtual instruments. T hey are wonderful, but if you think back to albums like [The Beach Boys], “Pet Sounds” and [The Beatles] “Sgt Pepper”, those sounds were created, they weren’t just there at the push of a button!
HR – I know you’re quite experimental with your solo work …
Once you’d left Genesis , how easy was it to move into a more classical sound with your compositions?
AP – I found it difficult! I could play by ear, but learning to read music at the age of 18 was incredibly hard to grasp.
It was a different discipline of course, of not looking at the guitar or the piano, whilst reading music.
My motivation in doing it, was because I wanted the ability to orchestrate ; Not having had that set of skills in Genesis , we couldn’t really have any input into the orchestral approach because we simply didn’t really understand it.
Tony Banks did more than the rest of us, although he wasn’t orchestrally trained, but he could read music.
So I wanted the power to orchestrate.
It wasn’t simply about being able to read music, or being able to play piano pieces – It was definitely to understand notation, so that I could write orchestral pieces.
I had a ‘Road to Damascus’, if you like, after I left Genesis, and listened to all sorts of composers.
“The Karelia Suite”, by Sibelius, was my epiphany.
I suddenly thought “this doesn’t sound like classical music!”.
I must have listened to the wrong things, or maybe my ears weren’t ready to listen as a child, so I had a lot of catching up to do.
There was a huge ‘pop’ / ‘Classical’ divide as I was growing up in the 60s – it was rancorous between the establishment and the young tear-aways, and hippies.
It was a wonderful voyage of discovery though, but frustrating at the same time – technically – I loved doing Bach ‘Chorales’ and things like that, but some of the exercises I had to do, I found quite dull.
HR – Having honed your skills then, did you find that it made a difference to the music that you wanted to write?
Did you find yourself wanting to bridge the gap between pop and classical – through a ‘progressive’ angle?
AP – Hmmm, Bridge the gap is interesting.
It didn’t make a great deal of difference to me in terms of the progressive wing of my writing – I think I would have grown into that anyway.
With Genesis – There were some moments which were quasi classical, but I don’t think they bridged the gap really, no.
Tony Banks was very familiar with the classical repertoire, so you could argue that his chord sequences were classically influenced.
What studying did for me, was give me the ability to do – with the more markedly classical wing of things (although you may argue that it’s a fine line to distinguish which bits are prog, and which are classical!) – was cope with them better.
On “The Geese And The Ghost” for instance, having studied orchestration, and knowing how to write the parts, I didn’t have to get an arranger in.
I could think for myself and make my own judgments on which instrument to add where.
Plus – arrangers inevitably, like anyone else, tend to have their own styles which then reflect on the piece, which might be good, but it might not be necessarily what you want.
So it really did help me in that respect.
HR – Genesis certainly didn’t carry any of that vibe forward, into their commercial phase …
AP – No! Well, the post Gabriel group gradually became more and more commercial didn’t they.
Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel were quite different animals really – Obviously Peter did some successful commercial things afterwards.
To be fair to them [Genesis], it would have been very difficult to carry on that way – especially post punk, and disco eras.
There was almost a unilateral, multilateral, Palace revolution, that everyone had to start doing that!
It became very unfashionable to be ‘prog’ and have such complicated long and drawn out pieces of music.
My timing was peccable – I’m not sure there is such a word, but I like it anyway! – coming back into the business, because I walked straight into the teeth of punk!
Whilst I had nothing against it, in the sense that if I had been 10 years younger I would have been doing the same thing –what I did object to, was being asked to go into reverse gear, and start doing simple pop stuff, because I’d out grown it.
So I think it actually, for the purposes of the market, became very difficult for groups to stay true to their former selves and continue to produce classically based music.
I don’t think it was a conscious direction on behalf of a lot of groups to start to simplify their music, they just were not given much choice.
It didn’t do England a great deal of credit the way that everyone cashed in on that – there was so much clichéd nonsense around and people were saying “this music hasn’t got any balls!”.
In a lot of European countries and the States, different styles were able to co-exist much better, than here in the UK.
It was the fault of the record companies rather than a lot of the punk musicians really – they were just happy doing their own thing, but there was a lot of unpleasantness at that time.
There were a lot of people who were heroes one day, and then being knifed in the back the day after by the people who had been adulating them!
Which wasn’t anything to be terribly proud about …
HR – Not at all! But, something to be proud about is this lovely re-issue of your debut solo album “The Geese And The Ghost”!
AP – Yes! Absolutely! It’s just come out again, and in surround sound too, which is the first time I have had a surround sound album, and they have done a fantastic job with it!
Particularly the instrumentals – it really does make a difference to have that experience of surround sound.
And they’re releasing limited editions on Vinyl too, which is fabulous because that is when the artwork really comes into it’s own.
Vinyl seems to be having a bit of a revival, which is great!
MP3s are OK, but the sound is pretty impoverished really one you’ve narrowed the bandwidth of the sound.
It sounds like a different album really, with that treatment!
HR – When you started work on “The Geese And The Ghost” originally – Did you write it from a fresh perspective or was it something that you had brought forward from Genesis?
AP – It was actually written from a period as far back as 1969 / 1970. Things that Mike [Rutherford] and I had played around with then. There were some additions and refinements made between 1973 / 1974.
Recording began in 1974, although the main body of it was done in 1975 – which is actually 40 years ago, isn’t that terrible?!
And then, because they were now unfashionable times, we really struggled to get it released – so it didn’t come out until early 1977, by which time some of that material was over 7 years old!
HR – When you were selecting musicians to work with, what influenced your decision to ask Phil Collins and not Peter Gabriel?
AP – Well, Mike and I wrote together, and Peter and Tony [Banks] wrote together – when we came together as a group, that modified a little, but that initial pairing pretty much stayed the same way.
So, because Mike and I had all this unreleased music – which was frustrating –at the earliest opportunity ; at a time where solo albums looked like a possibility – we wanted to use this material.
We had done a single with Phil in 1973 which ironically was written about the previous Genesis drummer, Jonathan Silver, who was on the first album. I had written this with Mike – a very uncharacteristic kid of loose country song called “The Silver Song” and Phil came down and sang the demo and did such a great job of it.
You see, Peter was married, so whenever we had any time off – he went home to spend it with Jill ; whereas Phil was foot loose and fancy free and had tons of energy.
The single never got released for various reasons, but when it came to “The Geese And The Ghost” he was the obvious choice because the three of us had worked together before.
HR – I’m glad you mentioned Jonathan Silver there – with regards to him, and John Mayhew – were they just hired guns for the early Genesis albums or did they have creative input?
AP – No, they weren’t hired guns as such, but by the same token they didn’t have a huge input, but we did group compositions on all the tracks on those first 2 albums – so whilst they weren’t writing huge swaythes of chord sequences, they were putting in little bits here and there. Jon Silver was full of energy and ideas about arranging and how things were connected.
HR – We never really get to know the dynamics of the early stuff, which is why I was curious.
It has always seemed to me, that Phil Collins became Genesis … or is that an unfair judgment?
AP – Well he had the big commercial success and I don’t think it would have been easy to keep him unless he had the lion share of the writing credits, although I think they’ve shared the credits pretty well …
I think it’s sad to see him fall so far from all of that these days, with the press in particular, but he was colossally successful, and I think the group would have been looking the gift horse in the mouth if they hadn’t run with Phil.
The media can be so cruel.
I remember a duel review of “The Geese And The Ghost” being handed to me from the states.
One called it a “mellow rock classic”, the other said it was “music to wash dishes to” … and sadly you seem only to remember the bad ones!
And do you know, that it was the album that very nearly never came out?!!
It sat on a shelf whilst punk roared away, and I’d given up on it to be honest.
It was 15 months between finishing it and it being picked up to be released.
For the first 3 or 4 months I was quite hopeful; by new year 1976 I was beginning to lose hope, and by the summer I was definitely starting to think about other things, and applying to go to music college full time.
It was a pretty soul destroying time – I’d spent a lot of time and energy on it; a lot of angst , and thought, apart from hard work, had gone into it …
And then right at the 11th hour, while I was going for auditions to music college for the following year – suddenly it was picked up by an American record company.
It was never actually released on a formal English record company label – it was released by the Genesis management company with whom I was with at the time – ‘Hit And Run’ – so like I say it’s the album that nearly never was!
HR – If it hadn’t been picked up then, do you think you’d have given it another shot down the line?
AP – No … I don’t actually.
I think I would have gone to music college, and ...
What would I have done at the end of it?
I think I would have carried on composing, definitely, but I’m not quite sure where I would have come out at the other end, because the progressive scene had long gone, when I finished college in 1979– [laughs]
Yes – in a parallel world what would I have done?
I have absolutely no idea!
I would probably have ended up as a music teacher.
HR – Did you teach, at some point?
AP – Yes … yes I did funnily enough. Whilst I was studying, I taught classical guitar – which helped me a lot.
I had always played acoustic guitar, but didn’t play proper finger style – my right hand was quite basic, so I studied classical guitar as well as piano when I left Genesis, and teaching then helped me to pass the Classical Guitar teachers exams (as opposed to the performers diploma).
I taught at a couple of different schools.
One was Pepper Harrow ; which was like a progressive borstal for kids who were very bright, but who’d fallen foul of authority – not so badly that had to be interned, as it were.
A great number of them had come from some pretty horrific backgrounds, but a number of them have gone on to do great things.
Some of them were brilliant musicians!
I remember wondering what I was letting myself in for initially, but it’s something that I look back on with a great deal of affection. They weren’t just guitar lessons – they were much more – the music was a vital part of these guys rehabilitation.
HR – Sounds like you’d have made a fantastic teacher, had all else failed!
Given that “The Geese And The Ghost” almost didn’t happen – did that fill you with confidence to carry on to do the next album straight away, or had it discouraged you a little?
AP – Oh I’ve had more than my fair share of discouragement over the years!
The album that came directly afterwards was “Wise After The Event” and I was immediately told that it had to be an album of songs – the writing was on the wall for these straggly instrumental albums – and it was time to crank up the electric guitar into a heavier rock genre, or don’t bother turning up, kind of thing.
“Sides” was originally going to be called “Balls”, which was cocking-a-snook at people for saying that my music didn’t have enough balls!
At the time it seemed to me to be so ludicrous to have this blanket approach across all music – so that’s why we had the cover with the table football table on it – But the powers that be, over-ruled “Balls” and we had to change it to “Sides” ; because it did have one side that was more overtly commercial than the other, which is a little more instrumental.
I was lucky at that point, because the “Private Parts and Pieces” idea just came out of the blue really.
I had been recording and stockpiling quite a lot throughout the year when nothing was happening with “The Geese And The Ghost”, and I asked if it might be possible, as a foil to this more rock orientated stuff, to be able to release an album of piano pieces, guitar pieces – sort of home recordings, which made up in their atmosphere and mood, what they lacked in technical perfection – and they said yes!
The first X of “Sides” was released as “Private Parts And Pieces” – as a freebie.
It wasn’t actually “Private Parts and Pieces I” because it was a one off, but that numbering thing became sort of a generic term for my albums which were more homespun and simple – you know, small scale, as opposed to the more magnum opuses.
Not that I was able to do a Magnum Opus for quite a while!
There was the “Invisible Men” album, which had a certain amount of record company backing, but that was again released around the time of the ‘New Romantics’ – more bad timing!
I’d just bought my first house, and was under huge financial pressure with about 18 lodgers to pay the mortgage!
So there was big pressure on to have hit singles and get paid, and so I didn’t do another full scale album for about another 6 years.
I was lucky to still have this ‘outlet’, with the small scale releases, to continue to get some music out there during the 80s – when the climate was very much against the more classical stuff – at least I did continue to get piano, guitar, synth – slightly more imaginative stuff – out there, but all very much on a small scale.
Thinking about it, it was actually a full 7 years gap before I had the opportunity to do another large scale album at the end of the 80s.
It was a frustrating time that too, I can tell you.
I had rather a chequered career for a while.
I was doing a lot of songwriting, and aiming it at other artists.
We would keep getting close, but then, the management would lose the artist, or the album was canned.
They weren’t collaborations or anything, but we had some placements in the works for Sheena Easton, Roger Daltry and people like that, but they never worked out.
We had a song covered by Bucks Fizz – who promptly had a coach crash!
So I had a run of bad luck with that really.
It was an interesting time – I was trying allsorts of different things whilst my own music wasn’t making much money, and whilst trying to pay for the new house.
It didn’t quite come to being a cat burglar, or an assassin, but I did give it some serious thought!
HR – Your celebrity friends could have hired you to assassinate the music press …
AP – [laughs] Yes …
HR – Is there anyone in particular, that you would like to collaborate with?
AP – I thought you were going to say Assassinate!
I don’t know these days … about collaborations …
Mike and I were always a good team but we have gone in different directions now.
I’m not sure that he’s interested in doing complicated instrumental stuff any longer.
He did ask me if I wanted to be involved with the Mike and Mechanics albums, but I knew that I couldn’t see the whole project through with the touring and everything, which is what he needed.
And it’s not necessarily my bag if I’m honest, although I very much respect what he’s achieved.
I think maybe we’ve gone too far down different roads now to make anything work.
Steve Hackett and I have talked about writing together a few times, but it’s always risky when someone is your friend.
Working relationships do change things, and I’m not sure I’d want to risk my friendship with Steve!
With my TV library music, I do collaborate with quite a lot of people then anyway, so I’m not one of these musicians who doesn’t want to work with anybody else.
HR – When are you at your happiest then? When you’re working on solo stuff and you’re completely in control of it (and I’m not insinuating that you’re a control freak!) …
AP – Ha, NO!
Actually, a great friend of mine calls my studio the spaceship!
And I’m completely happy in there when I’m just mucking about with all the wonderful synth sounds, creating tapestries of colour with sound – Love it!
And also playing guitar, which increasingly seems to happen late at night in front of the TV.
Just picking up a guitar – 12 String or Classical – when these ideas enter my head at absurd times of the day.
On the recordings you can invariably hear Alan Hansen and Match Of The Day commentry in the background!
And I do actually present demos to my library producer, with TV programmes going on in the background.
HR – What sort of boundaries are in place with your Library writing? Can you remain true to your ‘album’ style, or are you tied to a brief?
AP – I have a lot more freedom these days to create some varied pieces – guitar, synth – it’s very varied, and that’s what I love about it, but it’s hugely competitive, and the recession spawned a lot of ‘under-cutting’ – the market is flooded, and the rates of pay have dropped!
I feel very fortunate to have done well at a time when it was less competitive, and to have continued to do it.
It’s incumbent on me to keep writing as much as possible – I can’t afford to take my foot off the peddle.
So when things come up, I don’t ever really have a blank page because of the stockpile of guitar, piano , synth, and orchestral library pieces already down – I have all of this material ready to go, rather than start from scratch.
Some of them are slightly rough and would need to be redone, but the mood is there, and if someone came to me tomorrow asking for such and such, I would hope that I have something that would suit.
Unless they asked for a bagpipe concerto. I haven’t got one of those.
It’s unlikely to happen, but you never know …
HR – So when we end this conversation, you’re going to go and write one …
AP – [laughs]They’re not a pretty sound when people turn them off you know!
What they don’t tell you is that when they’re warming up and cooling down they sound like a sick cow!
It is a racket!
We had a funny incident on the road with Genesis actually.
Peter Gabriel was a little bit accident prone, and slightly absent minded on stage, and used to play the accordion in Stagnation, a bit – in quite an unconventional way, not like jolly French stuff with the onions and the beret – but he would put it down during a very quiet section and if he didn’t put it down properly, it would make this kind of squealing noise going off into the distance, and suddenly we would sound like a John Cage outfit! People would look up completely startled!
Another thing he would do – he was a good flute player but struggled with an A flat in “The Knife” which was our closing song – and Tony Banks had to remind him before we went on, that you had to tweek the flute to tune it by a semi-tone.
Occasionally Tony would forget to tell him, and Peter wouldn’t remember; The lights would dim, and we’d be ready for this lovely moody bit, and BANG! He would come in a semi tone out! That was pretty tense I can tell you!
I love all of those instruments …
HR – What’s your favorite instrument?
AP – Ooooh Tricky.
I think pushed to answer that, I’d have to say 12 string guitar 1st, followed very closely by piano, Classical guitar 3rd, and underwater sousaphone 4th …
HR – And, may I say you play all 4 brilliantly!
AP – Aww thanks …
HR – I’ll look forward to your underwater sousaphone symphony at some point, amidst the forthcoming re-releases!
Were you looking at reworking your back catalog, or was it something that you were approached to do?
AP – They approached me! [Cherry Red / Esoteric Records].
Not to put too finer point on it but I make the majority of my living from my TV music, and the album work has always been a very nice foil to that, but it’s not been my bread and butter, as it were.
I’m probably one of the only artists who has ever said to a record company – “are you really sure you want to do this?”
And they did, so I was a bit surprised really!
I gathered they were in the business of picking up back catalogs– and I hate the world ‘cult’ – but of people who have ‘cult’ followings, and it felt like entirely the right thing to do.
It feels a safe place to be, and with a decent company who have their act together; after having had so many years of uncertainty with this stuff.
HR – How much influence did you have over the way that the 2014 anthology “Harvest Of The Heart”, was put together?
AP – Not a lot actually, but entirely by choice.
I wrote a little bit for the blurb on the boxset, but as far as choosing what songs to include – I couldn’t make the decision.
It was too difficult – I mean, I dither anyway, at the best of times! And I’m not in any way trying to imply with arrogance that this is all so wonderful, but it was just too hard for me to decide. I’m not a good judge of what other people would have wanted, and to be frank I don’t like listening to a lot of it anyway, once I have done it, otherwise I start to pick it all apart and convince myself that I could have done better …
So I was very happy to leave it up to Jonathan Dann, who runs my website ; and Mark Powell (Boss of Cherry Red), who went through all of it. He deserves a medal for that!
HR – I know it’s unfair to ask an artist what their favourite piece of their own music is, but – do you have one?
AP – The albums I’m most proud of , would be “The Geese And The Ghost”, and “Slow Dance” ; which was the first album that I did when I came back after that 7 year hiatus in the wilderness, as it were …
HR – Was that [Slow Dance] released under your own steam outside of record label jurisdiction?
AP – It was actually! I did that off my own bat, and once again ended up having a bad time of it!
We’d done an album called “Tarka”, and there was a bit of an upturn in the 80s with the ‘new age’ boom.
I’d been doing what was effectively ‘new age’ for a while, but suddenly people realised that, after about 5 years!
So I borrowed some money from my management company to crank up my gear, in order to enable me to do a larger scale record. This was in lieu of a small advance from the record company, who then went bust!
So the rights to my songs were impounded, under US laws, and my catalogs were frozen (as assets) in the states for a number of years and I couldn’t get them back – so it was a pretty chaotic period in terms of America, but also I had to finish what I had started here!
So I pressed on with this album, very much in debt, because I’d bought the gear, but then hadn’t got the advance to pay it off!
Looking back I’m not sure how I kept going really because the record was very complicated …
But I did have an ulterior motive which was to try and secure a publishing deal with the then’ Virgin Publishing’ under Richard Branson.
I don’t to this day think he realises what he let go of when he sold it on to EMI – it was such a wonderful company to be a part of.
Ultimately, I got a deal, which got me out of the mire; I finished what became “Slow Dance” and then Virgin came in and released ALL of my albums onto CD for the first time, so I was very fortunate then.
I owed a lot to that record in the end.
But it was a real blood, sweat, and tears album, and it wasn’t just mentally painful to listen to afterwards – it was literally physically painful too ; I would writhe around and cringe listening to it because I spent too long on it, and it sounded awful to me.
It tried to do too much.
It’s quite filmic, and unabashedly lyrical – It’s very orchestral at times and some of it is artificial; the sounds at that stage weren’t particularly brilliant and in hindsight it would have benefitted from more real orchestra.
I think I could listen to it now …
There is a two year rule – don’t listen for something you did for two years, and you’ll forget what was wrong with it!
HR : “Slow Dance” is one of the albums that has already been re-released by Cherry Red, So the ultimate question is, forced to listen to it again, have you grown fonder of it?
AP : My own view in general, which I appreciate may be very different to that of other musicians, is that when you come back to an album not having heard it for ages, it has novelty value and you think ‘that’s not bad at all’….! That’s why i prescribe the ‘two year rule’.
Don’t listen to a piece, album, whatever, for a while and you will forget what it was that you are aspiring to that made you feel dissatisfied with its original outcome !
Alas, repeated listens gradually bring back the issues that worried you at the time ! And the more time spent on an album (in my case Slow Dance, Geese were particular long campaigns) the worse it is. QBG and I flew through PP3 in the lovely summer of 1981 and it all remained fresh and therefore untarnished in one’s memory. This naturally makes us completely unobjective when it comes to judging our work !
Slow Dance was such a painstaking haul that when I finished it I found it excruciating to listen to.
You have a mystical image of how a piece should sound and capturing this remains tantalisingly elusive !
Perhaps this very frustration is what drives you on to try and do better …?
So yes, at first pleasantly surprised, with a few reservation, then gradually I began to feel ‘could have done that better – in many instances !
But there are sections that I am still quite proud of and I know it is a piece that has been a moving experience for number of people…….
HR : You clearly seem to enjoy the opportunity to take your recordings into the surround sound arena too – did ”Slow Dance” surpassed your expectations?
AP : The Surround was a tough one : the toughest of all the re-releases thus far….Perhaps not harmonically but certainly in terms of the arrangement, the album was in parts very intricate and both the balance and flow hung by a thread. Any slight change and the wheels would come off. And they did ! It presented an almost insurmountable challenge to Simon Heyworth and Andy Miles, as there were effects on outboard gear (now either absent or defunct !) that weren’t recorded to tape and therefore had to be somehow ‘reconstructed’.
On the other hand instrumental albums such as this and particularly 1984 ( a feast for the guys with all the weird, tricky sounds lending themselves well to sonic spatial manipulation !) do benefit from the size and ambience that 5.1 affords. So my considered view is that the more ambient, floaty parts benefit greatly whilst other sections slightly less so….
I think any of the orchestral albums would really benefit from being in Surround Sound.
The bigger it is, the more there is going on, and the more you can throw around the room.
But what does the musician / composer’s view count…..? It is only the audience’s opinions that ultimately counts !
I am happy that we try to give anyone repurchasing these albums enough extra material to make it feel worth it !
The re-release schedule is a bit torturous actually.
We’re up to “Private Parts and Pieces” with a bonus CD of material from the time, and … I don’t want to give too much else away really, but we will be doing more … maybe “Tarka”, eventually.
HR – Would you like to get any of your compositions to a point where an orchestra could perform it live?
AP – Oh You bet! I’d love it!!
There was a performance of “Tarka” in Australia, but it was with a scratch orchestra, so a rather mixed affair.
It’s quite hard [Tarka] although it’s not an incredibly difficult score, but it needs some very good players to do it justice.
These things are just so incredibly expensive to put together though, aren’t they?
HR – Yes, they are!
Do you ever perform?
AP – I don’t … no.
My experience with Genesis made me very tentative about performing, but to be honest – the thing that I enjoy most is composing. I’m a terrible practicer! The process of playing something over and over again, just bores me to tears!
HR – How about conducting then?
AP – Gosh no, I’m not a good enough conductor – I did study it for a while, briefly, but I’d be much better on a bus!
I know the moves, and the beats, but it’s that business of making the left hand totally independent of what’s going on with the right hand – that’s really difficult. It’s an extraordinary art!
And when I go to see an orchestra, the conductor always seems to be so far ahead, that I can’t ever put it together!!
When I was first studying I used to get the orchestra seats behind the Albert Hall proms, which are the ones behind the Orchestra where you’re looking directly at the conductor – and some of the conductors seemed to be so far ahead of the orchestra, that we used to joke that the conductor would be in the dressing room toweling down, whilst the orchestra were still finishing off!
I don’t understand it!!
It’s one thing that I do regret in life actually – I would have loved to have been in the middle of a big phat orchestra when something like the “Rites Of Spring” [Stravinsky] or “The Planets” [Holst] is being played. That must be amazing!
Even to just play the triangle or something! I’d love to do that …
HR – There’s always time! What about your life outside of music? Do you ever divert from your musical routes?
AP – [laughs] It would seem not to the untrained eye eh?
I have a lot of friends and probably spend too much time socialising, and eating out, so I burn the candle at both ends too often.
I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephews, and God-children – I don’t have kids of my own but keeping up with all of them makes life pretty full!
It is a difficult balance to keep because I really can’t afford to fall behind with work stuff and that involves an endless amount of mind boggling admin with the album career, and for composing for the library – I have to keep up with all the new technology in the studio, and the new sounds – endless changes!
I love sports ; all sorts of sports …
I’m a big film man – love films.
Probably my favourite music is in film scores these days.
My big musical heroes are film composers – amongst many, my favourites are Ennio Morricone : particularly ”Cinema Paradiso” and the wonderful ”Gabriel’s Oboe” from ’The Mission; John Williams, ”Schindlers List”; George Fenton , ”Shadowlands”; Thomas Newman , ”Shawshank Redemption”; Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Alan Silvestri and many others … so, yes!
How do I actually find time to work? That is the question ...
Ant’s website can be found here http://www.anthonyphillips.co.uk/
Check out the available albums here https://www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/anthony-phillips/