Interview with Ant - May 2004

The questions for this interview were submitted by a number of fans around the world.  
Ant gave his answers to the questions on 15th May 2004.  


What guitar effect(s) are you using in the song Sally?

Around the time of Invisible Men I would probably have been putting the guitars through a Space Echo still, which had chorus.  Generally speaking it was chorus and compression.  On Wise After The Event I used a stereo green Boss chorus ensembler and a red Dynacomp for chord-based stuff.  There were fuzz elements for the solos.  On Invisible Men it may well be that we were using an external effects unit called a Scamp - I think that had stereo chorusing.

What guitar effects on the lead guitar parts on "Pulling Faces"?

It definitely would have had the chorus, possibly the compression and fuzz, although I don't remember which fuzz box I would have been using at the time.  The original one we all had was the Marshall fuzz box - that was the one I used on The Knife.  Subsequently I used a thing called The Rat but I can't remember if I used that or not.

Can you remember what tuning you used in the Song "Wise After the Event" and what kind of Guitar was used at the beginning of the song?

The used for Wise After The Event is as follows: -

In strict DESCENDING order:

        C      1


        G      2


        E      3


        C     4


        G     5


        C     6


The main ''riff'' in Wise is based on holding the top string on the 7th fret and moving on the 2nd string frets as follows- 5 5 0 5 7 7 5   5 0 5 7 7 0 7 7 5 -all the other strings are ''open"!

The guitar used on the track was a Rickenbacker 12-string, which I bought in Manny's in New York in 1977.

Do you think you might do some more works that incorporate the Electric guitar in the future?

Absolutely, it's not top of my list but I've never ruled it out and I still love the electric guitar.  It's more likely if I do albums of a fuller nature just because solo electric guitar is not such an easy natural thing to me as solo acoustic guitar.  There have been tracks like Sarah Blakeley's Evening where electric guitar has worked well so I hope so.

If asked, would he be prepared participate in anyway in a 'final' Genesis reunion show (i.e. for a one off encore etc), or studio recording?

I think it's really unlikely that it would happen.  I think it would depend on the circumstances and how busy I was.  It wouldn't be something that would come naturally to me in terms of live work, as I simply haven't toured.  If it were something simple like playing 12-string on Visions of Angels then that would be ok but if it involved long rehearsals then I think I'd feel like a fish out of water.  If there was a charity element to it then that might make a difference.  I did agree to the Six of the Best reunion in 1982 but then that didn't happen with me being involved.  I'd ultimately feel uncomfortable with it as the others have all been on the road and I'd feel very much an outsider - if I'd carried on playing live then it would be different.  I've moved into such a different kind of area that it would be difficult to be honest.

What tracks, that he's aware of, are still in Genesis' archives that didn't make it on to the Archive Box set (i.e. from the early demo tapes, the FGTR sessions, etc) ?

There were some demos that got lost.  There was a track called 'Everywhere Is Here' which was demoed alongside Visions of Angels and was regarded as the better song at the time so it was a bit of a tragedy that that one was lost.  As far as tracks that still exist go, that's probably a question best put to Tony Banks as he has most of the surviving tapes.

Did the band play the Musical Box in some form live while he was in the band?


What are his favorite musical moments and or songs from his Genesis days?

At the time there were highlights when we were writing things - I can remember doing some of the writing on Stagnation because it felt really exciting as we were going down a new path.  There were also moments when we were putting together the instrumental sections of things like The Knife and Looking For Someone, which were extremely exciting.  As far as the end result goes that's difficult as by the time you've recorded the track you've usually grown bored of it - the exciting thing is writing it and the endless repetition on the road frankly kills it.  Probably some of the things that excite me most in my memory are the ones that we hardly played because they didn't have a chance to get tarnished.  There were some rather lovely things we did in the middle period in between recording From Genesis To Revelation and going on the road.  There was a piece called A Winter Flies By, which sticks in my memory as being rather nice because it was naive and untarnished.

There was a whole period around the Christmas of 1968 where we'd done From Genesis To Revelation, it hadn't yet been butchered in the mixing.  I remember there was a piano thing of Tony's in C minor, which was lovely, and A Winter Flies By was a guitar based thing with a second section that was Tony's.  We kicked it off with acoustic guitar going into piano.  It's important to stress that because these pieces weren't done to death that they probably stick in my memory more.  The whole problem with the road was that the songs were done to death because we didn't have enough time to rehearse new things given the complexity of the music to keep it fresh.  So there was endless repetition and it was a bit like an orchestra going out and playing the New World Symphony every night.  There's no variation and I was about the only one that had any variation on the road with the solo in The Knife.

If he were to put together the ideal band to do a 'rock/pop' album, who would he want to use?

If the group were a band to play my music and my type of music, my line-up would be:

Peter Gabriel (vocals)

Tony Banks (keyboards)

Mike Rutherford (bass, acoustic guitar)

Phil Collins (drums, backing vocals)

For a band to play with, perhaps as a guitarist but not a writer and covering different styles?  There are so many options!  Let's try:

Eric Clapton (guitar)

Paul McCartney (bass)

Lyle Mays (keyboards)

Michael Giles (drums)

And if he could produce an album in any style he likes, whom would he like to work with?

If I was going to do some songs and I wanted to have a great singer then obviously it would be fabulous to work with Peter again.  It would be fabulous to work with Phil again as well.  On the classical side you could hand-pick some of the best classical musicians if I was going to do another Slow Dance-type album and you could have someone like Yo Yo Ma playing some of the cello parts, which would be phenomenal!   

And if somebody put together an Anthony Phillips tribute album, who would he like to see play his music?

That's impossible to answer really.  I imagine the person most qualified to do the guitar area would be Mike.  I think I'd be enormously flattered if any decent musician who is well known were to do it.

Which is his favorite album of his own music?

Probably Slow Dance.  The Geese & The Ghost holds a strong affection because it's with Mike but the trouble is that there was quite a lot of grief associated with the album and it's difficult for me to listen to it without remembering how I had to cut corners with it.  Slow Dance despite being imperfect had a lot of feeling and energy invested into it and it seems to touch people with quite different backgrounds.

What sort of music does he enjoy listening to today and are there any current artists he rates?

I've been pretty much out of the Ant-loop for the past few years so I don't have any questions about his most recent output. I'd be curious to learn, though, what music he's been listening to lately, and perhaps what books he's been reading....

I listen mainly to classical music and film composers, being much more involved in the TV and potential film music world.  So it's people like Morricone and George Fenton who I listed to and am incredibly in awe of.  As far as rock is concerned, I buy odd albums here and there or get bought albums - Dido's album was quite nice and I think Nora Jones is quite classy.  Not all of it is necessarily my kind of music but the feel of it and the sound of her voice are absolutely exquisite.  When I'm not doing music myself I quite like to get away from it and therefore I don't listen to a lot is the truth of it.

As far as books go, I do tend to read a mixture of the new and the old.  I go from modern people like Sebastian Faulks and Louis De Bernieres and then feel guilty having not read any of the classics and go back to books like Catcher In The Rye and The Great Gatsby.  Nearly always I tend to think that the old writers are better.  I don't normally like to spend any time re-reading old things but I've done something quite out of character in the last nine months and have had a complete blitz on re-reading books that I first read at school.  I've always had an image of the Virginia Wolf books, which I had to do for A-level, and hated to start with but as I got into them I loved them.  There's some fantastic imagery and it's a real feast for the senses.  I then read Hound of the Baskervilles and have subsequently started reading all the Sherlock Holmes stories and found them to be absolutely excellent.  I have a huge pile of new novels to start reading as well.

I did read a book about a year ago which was very good about the recording of Are You Experienced?  I found that absolutely fascinating.  Being at school at the time I didn't know how that album was put together and it turned out that they did something at CBS with Mike Ross who was the guy that mastered Slow Dance.

If Genesis hadn't happened and a musical related career hadn't presented itself, what does Ant think he would have liked to have done instead?

I would have definitely gone to University and done a History or English degree, which I would have loved to do.  Whether or not that would have led to a career, I really don't know.  That's a hard one to answer.

I'm a big fan of the Mellotron, so I was wondering if you still own a working Mellotron, and what is your overall impression of that instrument?

I think at the time it was great, I think the sounds are still great.  The flutes and the chilling strings are lovely but as you have to take your fingers off the keys every eight seconds it's quite impractical.  I do have a Mellotron, which I got in 1977.  It originally belonged to James Newton-Howard, another brilliant film composer who used to play with Elton John.  It doesn't work properly, the keys don't all work correctly and at one stage the transformer went up in flames!  It has been fixed but I don't really use it.

On any given day, how much time do you spend either composing music or playing guitar or keyboards?

It's so unpredictable, I don't have any fixed time or pattern.  When there's a lot of pressure on, I might spend 10-12 hours in the studio, which would be a mixture of composing and playing.  A full day spent working on the next Private Parts & Pieces album might add up to 4 or 5 hours but not much more than that and I do have to space it out as well.

Although we totally understand about how stage fright affects you and also the fact that you are far too busy with television and library projects to even consider touring, lots of us would nonetheless really love the chance to experience you playing your music live IN SOME FORM. That said, would you ever consider doing a video-taped "concert" along with one or two other collaborators such as Guillermo Cazenave, Joji Hirota, and/or ...?

I'm thinking along the lines of a video version of "The Living Room Concert." The results could potentially be made available from either your website, the Camino Records website, or the official Genesis site.

In theory yes.  However, what we keep coming back to with this is that a lot of this music is not simple and the time it would take to rehearse it up to a level which people would expect would be a lot.  Given that this is not my main form of music and living, and the other stuff is pretty constant and pretty demanding it would be pretty hard to find the time to do it.  Certainly booking other people would be very difficult because I wouldn't be sure whether I could sustain the whole process.  Besides which I would have to pay the other people as well.  I'm afraid the sad truth is that if my CDs were to sell a lot more it would make it easier to at least contemplate this whereas at the moment with it being relatively modest I have to grab every bit of TV work that's going and that precludes spending massive amounts of time on other things.

It goes without saying that I have massive reservations about the playing side.  I know that people enjoy the pieces on the albums but I get very bored with the repetition of practicing and I do find it very tedious.  I love creating and just the thought of having to practice old pieces for hours on end fills me with dread to be honest.  Having said that, this is something that I'd like to do and I will do at some stage because a video is a "halfway house" option.  I'd have to do really simple things with other people because we couldn't budget if there was a big involvement with others.  It would be nice to have a band of people like Quique, Joji and Martin Robertson but all of them are doing other things which complicates things.  We'll see - it's nice to be asked about this and it's something I would like to do but at the same time I do worry that people would expect a lot which in turn would require a lot of time.

Should you find your muse bestowing inspiration at some moment when you happen to (rather inconveniently) not be in the vicinity of any musical instruments, how would you go about capturing the inspiration? I guess what I mean is do you have any sort of personal notation system that you resort to for such occasions?  I seem to recall that "Sistine" was "a flash of inspiration while visiting the Sistine Chapel (real) scribbled on someone's calling card," or something to that effect.

There's two ways of approaching this.  I have got a diary that has some musical staves so with that you can jot down an idea.  If I haven't got that to hand then what I do is that I write down the rhythm of the notes and write in the name of the note on top.  If I've got nothing to write on then it gets more complicated but I try and picture a rhythm and where the notes fall in the bar.

What's you preferred model of 12-string acoustic at the moment, and what string gauges do you use, if it's not a trade secret?

12-string is difficult to play so I tend to use light strings.  In some of the very low tunings I might use medium.  I'm very lucky, I've got four 12-strings and I love them all; they're all different.  I've got the old Alvarez, which I used on Twelve, a Guild and a Brook.  The best one is probably the L'Arrivee.

Hello Anthony. I am Andreas from Germany and I play 12-string and classic guitar. I read that apart from the existing book from Weinberger there won't be any more scores released in the future. Would it be possible that you give hints about tunings and little snippets about finger positions etc. on the official web site? I'm especially interested in the earlier 12-string material from PP&P I and The Geese & The Ghost. Managed myself to play a decent, but incomplete version of Flamingo. Thanks.

I think if a few people are interested in a particular track then we could do something like this although we'd need some feedback on which specific tracks there is the most interest in as again it would be too time consuming to do more than a limited number.

Will there be more sheets of music available in the future besides the only available little guitar-book? It could be either guitar, piano or songbook. I would be very interested.

Unfortunately not enough people are interested for a publisher to think it viable at the moment so this would something that we would have to do ourselves.  Hopefully in the fullness of time we will able to do this.

Is there a chance to see a brilliant full-blown instrumental work as "Tarka" or "Slow dance" released in the near future (rather than just small piano or guitar pieces)?

At the moment it's difficult for me to get a sustained period of time away from the TV and Library music to embark on anything like this.  I do want to do another project along these lines in the future.

Firstly say hi to Ant from an ex-Clapham Commoner now living in Duluth, MN. I have a few questions, so if you need more just ask. So after whittling it down a bit here is the one...

Is there any chance of seeing an official release of the Masquerade and/or Alice musical demos in the foreseeable future? I have heard most of these and I feel they deserve a release (at least the best bits). Martin Dean

We do know that people are interested in these tracks and a release of them is something we'd like to do in the fullness of time.  There are however some contractual and technical issues that need to be addressed with the recordings before they could be released.

OK, I'd like to know, honestly, how Ant ranks Smallcreep's Day within the Mike Rutherford solo catalog.  Since he played on it, he must have some opinion.  Did he like it at the time, does he now, etc.?  Does he hear any bits from the Smallcreep sessions in Genesis' work from the same period? 

I think it's safe to say that many older fans consider Smallcreep to be one of Mike's finest hours, if not his very best work.  That's my view anyway (don't mention that until he's answered, though).  Has he (Ant) read the book?

No, I haven't read the book.  I do remember some of the songs - some I liked quite a lot, some I thought were fabulous, like At The End of The Day.  I was aware without knowing the Genesis catalogue from the Seventies that intimately that some of things I was going to be playing would sound quite like the group.  As far as how it ranks with Mike's other albums, I don't know all of them.  My feeling is that it was more Genesis-like and once you've got Chris Neil on board then you have a much more commercial approach.  I guess it's down to personal taste and whether you like the more commercial Genesis material or not.


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