Tony Banks exclusive interview from Dusk # 74 Ė July 2013
by Mario Giammetti
The main theme of The Wicked Lady was originally intended for The Fugitive, but you had already rejected it for that album, can I ask why?
Iíd written a lot of pieces for The Fugitive which were around and I was going to use what I felt was right for that record. I had two slightly more quirky instrumental pieces which ended up being called Charm and Thirst Threes, both were rather different for me, and this other piece which was more conventional and close to what I had done for A Curious Feeling. I had I thought that I wasnít going to use it this time and when I was contacted by Michael Winner for the possibility of a film I thought: that theme, itís a nice theme, Iím not doing anything else with it, letís see what he thinks of it. Good timing for me, really.
Was it difficult to stop the process of The Fugitive at that stage? Did you have a studio or session musicians booked?
TB: No, just basically I just wrote the music for the film at the same time as recording The Fugitive. I was doing a lot of work, so what I decided to do was to create a few more ideas to make things a bit easier for me, if you like, so when I wrote the music for the film, a lot of the time I would write the bits and pieces for the cue as well. It came quite easy, I just didnít really have a lot of time, I was really in the middle of The Fugitive and I didnít want to stop doing it and I knew I had some fun before working to the next Genesis albumÖ I had always wanted to do film music and I thought: I could probably do both at the same time but itís going to take a bit of effort. In terms of the recording, I left a lot of it to the arranger, Christopher Palmer, he was very much responsible for the orchestrations and therefore he was the one on location with the orchestra and with the studio and all the rest of it. Yes, I went along to the sessions, but it was recorded in two days and then went back and did the album which was rerecorded in one day later on, after I finished The Fugitive. Actually, much later on.
What was your first impression when you saw the movie?
Itís a funny thing. I didnít not like it. It was quite funny, it looked great. The actors were fantastic. I looked at it as the project right from the word go and honestly it wasnít until I looked at it with an audience, with the music and everything, that I realised it wasnít really the greatest film. Before that I thought maybe it was ok, I donít know, I really didnít think about it, nice music and everything. I was at the premiere and people were laughing at the wrong moments and I thought; this isnít too good, itís not going to do too wellÖ go on to the next project.
How was to work with Michael Winner? It seems he was a difficult man to deal with.
Many people found him difficult. We got on well, actually. He would say outrageous things at times but he was very into music and he really liked the music I gave him, which was very gratifying you know, he could really tell and I mentioned on the liner notes I had the arranger a couple of times wrote some bits and pieces because I didnít have time, and you could tell immediately because I was probably slightly more melody based I suppose. I found it a really satisfying project to have done and I think the music works well in the film. Unfortunately, as I said, the film may not be great, but the way the music works within the film is good.
Did the arranger Christopher Palmer get your complete demos or piano versions only?
He had the demos. I did the original demos which I then arranged for the record but I did each cue as well. I wrote on a piano, I just did improvisation on the piano for the film and then sent it to him and then he arranged it. He would take quite a lot of liberties obviously with it, which was fine, I just wanted to give him the basicÖ he was quite enthusiastic about it all because he wasnít too sure aboutÖ he really liked the main theme which was good, he was experienced and I wasnít. In the end he said to me: you can do this, he said you should do more of it, which for me was quite a compliment because he was an old pro. Heís obviously not with us any more. He died of AIDS.
In the liner notes you say that Palmer also used one of his own themes, I guess you mean Portrait Of Jerry Jackson. But heís not credited as composerÖ
What happened was, because I was slightly lacking in time he just occasionally came up with this and other bitsÖ it was just conventional not to credit the arranger, he got the credit as the arranger. It was quite a small part of the piece but he in many ways yes, nowadays I would probably credit him. The other thing was I didnít think it was a very good bit. I said to him: look Iím not sure to enclose it on the record, but he said you should, because itís part of the film. So I did, because why not, really? It didnít make much of a difference one way or another. It sounds ok, it just doesnít quite feel like me.
The Chase is the only track which doesnít have an orchestral correspondent: why, as it is a brilliant theme?
There are little bits used of it. He (Palmer Ė ed.) didnít really feel it was quite right for theÖ he wanted it for the horsy bits, which is really what it was being used for, more of a ďdu dum de de dumĒ sort of thing, so what he did was that kind of rhythm behind the main theme which is sort of what you hear on Jerry Jackson. I think The Chase was a good piece music but it never got used in the film, itís Iíll never really used it for anything else I may as well stick it on the record.
Many composers for movies are able to deliver music in different styles. Your score has your trademark: was it a choice of yours or have you been specifically asked to do so?
Iíve been asked to do an orchestral score.
Would you have accepted the work anyway, if it was requested a specific kind of music such as "baroque"?
Iím not capable of doing that. I can just write my own way, I donít know any other way. I write music Ďcause I like it. Iíve got to feel good about whatever it is Iíve written. Anything Iíve ever written, Iíve always felt at the time Iíve written it Iíve wanted to do this, this is right, you know? If you are doing film music sometimes you are required to write in a different style as the film might require a different style. I did try for a while to write music for films and stuff and I got myself an agent, and one of the things I was required to do was, I had to audition for it, if you like, I did try a couple of the things but I didnít get any of the work, so it never happened, really. I can write in different styles, but if itís something you donít really understand then you donít know whether what youíve written is any good or not.
Why did you change for this re-release the running order of both the orchestral tracks and your demos?
Well, mainly what I wanted to do was put the best rendition of the main theme to open the album. Which was the instrumental music used during the soft core sequence in the middle, I wanted it to be the best track to begin with. In terms of the other side, I changed it so that my stuff comes second as well, I felt that the version with the drum machine sounds pretty dated, really. I was tempted to not put it on and I thought people would say ďwhy didnít you put it on?Ē, so I put it right at the end. I changed the order, changing the first and last pieces meant I didnít have to change a lot of other things, just to make it all work. Iím happy enough with the way it turned out.
So you went to the premiere of the movieÖ
I did go to the premiere. I thought it was ok, it wasnít fantasticÖ Iíd never really been to a film premiere before or anything like that, it was quite fun.
In 2009 The Wicked Lady became a musical and it was represented in English theatres, did you know this?
No, I didnít.
So I assume your music wasnít used thereÖ
I donít think so, I think they started from scratch. Iíve never heard it, I thought someone might have told me.
This album had appeared 30 years ago with two different covers, both with drawings inspired by the movie. This time you opted for a completely new artwork, just reflecting the masked woman. Was it your decision to avoid any copyright problems?
We did look into the possibility of using the picture, but the people who owned the copyright on it wanted money and I didnít really see the point actually. I would have quite liked to have the old coverÖ but thereís no real reason for it and now weíre just talking about the music and not about the film anymore. The film has come and gone, the music to people whoíd liked what Iíd done and heard Six and Seven might be interested in hearing it, because I mentioned that there was a possibility to rerelease it... and it wasnít available on cd, so why not put it out there and with the emphasis more on the music, thatís one of the reasons for doing the cover that way.
Having worked with the orchestra in 1983, did you ever fancy using an orchestra with Genesis as well, maybe in quieter tracks such as Taking in All Too Hard or In Too Deep?
I always thought my place in Genesis was to take the place of an orchestra! We often thought of using other people, but the fun was doing it ourselves right from the early days and I thought quite successfully on a song like Blood On The Rooftops just by using synthesisers and a little oboe. I thought, letís just do it like that, really. You could have done it a different way but it would have made it something slightly different and perhaps notÖ we did take, when we were in Australia, we had to have musicians on stage with us so we hired a string quartet and did versions of Your Own Special Way and In Too Deep. It didnít really add much to the original. It was ok. The old string synth and mellotron tended to sound pretty good on the recorded versions anyhow, I think.
Although not a commercial blockbuster, The Wicked Lady was surely a nice "business card" for the movie industry. Did you ever think about moving to USA to pursue a career in film scoring?
I did want to do more films but I donít think luck was ever with me on this. I did do three or four other film soundtracks as Iím sure you know, the Kevin Bacon one, Quicksilver, which of course was one of his least popular films, unfortunately (laughs Ė ed.). Not that bad a film either, but I couldnít afford the experience and they wanted to have other songs in there, and they had Giorgio Moroder and a song Iíd written with Fish which I wanted to have in there. So kind of frustrating but I did want to try and do it and I was offered one or two things, the script to Terminator, the first one, Iím sure I wasnít the only person. When I did decide I wanted to write songs, it just dried up and nothing happened. Iíd like to have done some more and Iím not totally closed to the idea right now but itís just one of those things really. It never really came my way.
The album is released by your own new label Fugitive Inc. I imagine the plan is to re-release other albums like The Fugitive and Bankstatement?
Well, probably. The idea is in the Autumn, see how it goes really. Either I do that or Iím going to put them out through another record company. The idea was to do them all, but thereís no point if itís going to cost a lot of money, whatís the point? I might as well just put them out with someone else and they can put them into their catalogues. I wouldnít be remixing anything else, itíd be nice to have them out there I think, so the plan is yes, probably them all. Itís extraordinary if you look around: I wanted to call it Fugitive Records but I couldnít do that, itís been used. I couldnít call it Curious Records, I then had to combine two words, Fugitive Inc which works ok, really. There may well be more.
Will these albums feature any extra tracks?
I donít know if thereís anything else. The cd version of The Fugitive had two extra tracks, there was an extra track on Bankstatement as well, thereís an extra track on all of them in fact. The cds tended to contain them. We may decide to put something on thatís a different version of something or an instrumental version. I often feel that particularly some of the songs on Bankstatement like That Night, a great instrumental track with a slightly embarrassing lyric, those sort of things are possibilities, I suppose.
Did Six sell well?
It sold well over here in England. It made the top of the classical charts for what itís worth. Yes, Seven was number two in the charts on the strength of Six. You donít sell too many records in the classical chart, to be totally honest. It wasnít bought by the classical cognescenti so much but Iím happy with the result, myself I enjoyed the record and Iím quite pleased with it.
I guess everyone is telling you that Strictly Inc is 18 years old, and itís your latest rock album to date. Donít you miss recording solo rock stuff?
Yes people do talk, has it been eighteen years? My God! Well the point was, and I have to be totally honest, none of my solo rock records did anything. Really, A Curious Feeling did little. It was extremely depressing to put them out one after the other and getting nowhere. Particularly when I realised the success of Phil, and Mike put his Mechanics stuff off. I donít know if I want to put myself through this again, it was painful. But now, with expectations quite a lot lower, you know, a different era and everything, I have considered it. I do like drums, itís probably what I sort of, you knowÖ thatís the stuff, itís great fun to do, you know, Iím one of many in that area, Iíve just gotta make certain I lower my expectations really.
So, have you composed new music?
Iíve got a lot of new things on the go, yeah, but Iím not sure what Iím working towards, some stuff feels more classical and other stuff are more rockyÖ Iím not sure what Iím doing next. Iím still working on it and see where it goes.
What about a best of, possibly including unreleased takes, for instance the Neap Tide demo, which was recorded at the time of Strictly Inc?
Oh right, there are things like that. I donít know, it might be best to do a sort of Best Of in many ways for the people who might be interested can buy only one record with 70 minutes of music. Iíd quite like to do that, itís a possibility, particularly because I donít have any problems with any record companies or anything, this might be the moment to do it. Some of the music hasnít perhaps stood the test of time so if people hear it for the first time itís not gonna work so well, but if you take only the best pieces I think it may make quite a good record actually. Iíve talked about it many times and having the Fugitive Inc thing going now may be the time to do it, rather than putting out the records individually first of all, do it the other way.
Would you ever consider the idea to arrange your own personal tribute to Genesis, revisiting some of your songs like, for instance, Mad Man Moon or One For The Vine, in a different way, perhaps with an orchestra or guests musicians and singers?
Well, I have sometimes thought about it, going back and rearranging some of the old songs, you mentioned Mad Man Moon which you could obviously do a great orchestral version of it.
I was very disappointed by the version done by Tolga Kashif, it bore little relation to the original song which I find a bit frustrating. Iím not really probably treating them instrumentally, is more interesting to me than just going back to do the songs again. As songs they kind of exist in a certain world, the way they were done originally, really. Iím not looking to redo them. Thinking about them in a different way would be quite a fun thing to do.
Steve Hackett recently recorded his tribute to Genesis and is currently touring with Genesis songs. What do you think of it?
Itís up to him, really. He left the group. He got fed up of doing these songs and now heís doing them again. I donít really know. Why not? I havenít really heard it. Iím not terribly interested in cover versions of anything, I suppose. When itís a different take, there have been a couple of versions of Land of Confusion out there which have been quite interesting because one in particular took a rather different take on the sound and made it sound good, I think. I donít know about the earlier songs, though. Heís done it a couple of times now. If he gets something out of it thatís ok. I get royalties (laughs Ė ed.)!
Do you still see or hear from Mike and Phil regularly?
I think I see Mike just down the road, I saw him the other day, really. We do get together and everything. I saw Phil last year. He doesnít come to England very much and when he does itís a bit of a secret. I donít see him very much and Iíve only seen him a couple of times since we talked, we keep in touch. Just not a lot.
Genesis recently got the Lifetime achievement award at the Prog Awards. The Genesis prog era was actually pretty short if we compare it to the whole career, nevertheless many people still rely on that phase of your career. While this is very complimentary on one side, donít you find it historically incomplete to just focus on one part of Genesis complex art?
If people enjoy any part of what we do Iím good by that, really. Some people, so much depends on your age, if you were sort of sixteen when Selling England came out it becomes your favourite album, it tends to work out like that a bit. When we accepted the awardÖ I did sort of go through our whole career, we wouldnít be here if it hadnít been for what came later, we wouldnít have got the award if it had just been up to The Lamb Lies Down, we wouldnít be remembered very well. We would just be an appendage of Peterís history, itís because of what we did later, playing these songs, things like In The Cage and all the rest of it, that the name became as well known as it is, and Iím very grateful donít get me wrong. I felt when I was talking to people that a lot of them considered it the whole period, and for some people stop after Pete left, some people after Steve left. I donít feel that the music changed very much between Trespass and Duke, we changed a bit from Abacab on, but there was always a lot that hangs in both areas, in both areas Iím in the middle of it. I canít tell, other people see things differently.
The Carpet Crawlers 99 versionÖ Did you and Mike at least work together to that version or did everyone record his part separately?
I think Mike and I went down to Real World and did what we did kind of together, but obviously Pete was going to sing. To be honest an awful lot of what I played, I didnít use a large part at allÖ Iíve forgotten what the guyís nameÖ
Trevor Horn, yes. The reason we got him on board was ícause we thought weíd all argue with each other and we said: you do what you want with it really. I thought what he did was pretty good really, I wasnít too sure about the little drum loop he used all the way through really, but I thought the way Philís voice took over from Peteís is just an amazing moment I think. Their voice have always had a certain similarity in intensity but he has a sort of slightly higher pitch that Phil has that seemed to give such excitement to that third verse when he came in that, you know, when he came in and the combination isÖI think it was good and if itís better than the original I donít know.
Can you tell me why the Seconds Out video was cut out from the bonus disc of the 1976/81 box set?
What was cut out? I canít remember. I think that Tony Smith decided that Seconds Out was not going to be in the Boxed SetÖ
Yes, but I refer to the 25 minutes videoÖ We have the Genesis In Concert film, we have the Lyceum í80 live, but not this oneÖ
I donít know, I canít remember. There probably was a reason for it, we did talk about what to put on, we tried to include everything but Iím not quite sure why thatís not in there. I have to check the box set. Iíll tell you why we did it, so you can ask questions like that, thatís why we did it! Something to talk about. Anyhow, I donít know.
Last March in London the short movie filmed at the Roundhouse in 1970 was screened, featuring the Trespass Genesis line up. Have you ever seen it?
No, I think Iíve seen a little piece of it. Itís got no sound, has it?
It was dubbed, not the original sound.
Not the original soundÖ itís one of those things, I donít even remember playing it, people ask me about it and David Bowie came on after us and it wasnít a good gig for him either and Iím a big fan, so you know, it was a weird thing really. The audience was completely drugged! ĎCause Ant was in the group, wasnít he?
So itís quite interesting to have a little record of Ant in the group, because thatís the only thing weíve got of him. Iíll have a look at it at some point. I donít think Iíve actually watched it. Itís worth it for that.
Can you remember anything of the The Jackson Tapes sessions? Did you see the film about the painter?
Never saw the film, I donít know if the film was even made, was it? We were given the idea of the type of film they wanted, we used bits we had around. We pulled it to pieces and used lots of the bits of it later on. A song like Anyway had been quite a separate song anyway, stuff like In The Cage and stuff, The Musical Box, we finished it and pulled it apart to make lots of songs. It was quite fun, there were good bits on that, itís worth it for that the final sequence was never used, itís worth it for that.
The technology in producing sounds from electronic keyboards or computer based sounds has improved very much since 1983, so how this affected your writing for your orchestral albums?
Though I ended up in both cases using some help for the orchestration, I can nevertheless produce a pretty good idea of what I wanted, because Iíd got the sounds there, so if I wanted oboe, strings or whatever I can actually use that instrument on an arranger, not really knowing enough about an orchestra right now you can get pretty close to it, itís great fun and you can produce a sound thatís pretty good, almost good enough on a computer nowadays. Itís not quite the same as the real thing, obviously.
Does inspiration always come by fooling around on the keyboard, or do you ever happen to wake up with a tune in mind, or whistling while driving, or anything else?
Most of what I write nowadays comes from improvising around on the keyboard, normally I tend to do most of the writing on the piano with the strings. Sometimes I try very hard to not use the piano, so Iíll set up something on the keyboard like a flute melody with a strings accompaniment or something or use just strings. Almost the best piece Iíve done in the classical area was just one part on the strings and ninety percent of what you hear on the final version is there. I love writing like that. I do occasionally get the idea for a melody in my head, very much the chord sequence of Firth Of Fifth I remember coming out of my head, that was an interesting thing to try and do, and then I went to the piano and it actually worked quite well. Trying very hard to get your conscious mind out of it, so youíre just playing without really knowing what it is youíre playing and getting into a state which is quite difficult to do, and with the ability to record everything you do now, with the computer, now makes it very easy because you can always go back and listen to stuff and thereís always something.
Mario Giammetti transcription by Antonio De Sarno