Interview with Ant - October 2000
Do you ever plan on doing another album similar to Wise After The Event with vocals, and electronic instruments?
I think it's unlikely because albums of that type require an enormous amount of logistics and a great investment of time. At the moment because my career is more angled towards television and film and because this sort of thing would require such a serious amount of time in the gestation, planning and implementation that it's unlikely in the short-term but it's by no means impossible in the future when I'm a multi-millionaire!
On Invisible Men and 1984, you worked with Richard Scott. I thought he really performed well with you. What is Richard doing these days, and would you work with him again?
Before we did the music phase together he was a friend of mine, we used to sit and strum guitars together. He went to York University, partly because I tutored him for the re-take of his history A-level. He went to York and studied English I think and then started to do a degree in some branch of psychology. He then left that and put that on hold for the music. After we'd done our album and musical, he went to the States to try his hand in the commercial song-writing world and did reasonably well but nothing really clicked so he then resumed his studies and is now Dr. Scott. He now works at the Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he deals with psychological trauma in children. Richard now spends very little time on music because he doesn't have the time due to family commitments so I doubt we'd really work together again because of that. We might work together on the odd song.
What are the basic chords to She'll Be Waiting? It seems to be normal tuning, but I seem to get stuck on a few of the chords that appear to be a form of a minor chord. (Sorry if I am getting technical).
Nothing to apologise about, it's always nice when people ask technical questions like this. The song is not normal tuning unfortunately, it's quite a low tuning and without having a guitar in front of me I can't actually give you an incredibly detailed account of it. The chords in themselves as a harmonic structure are not complicated but it would be difficult to replicate them exactly in normal tuning although you could do a fairly easy approximation of it. You wouldn't get quite the same inversions because of the way that the strings are laid out so it would never sound quite the same in a normal tuning. If you wanted me to tell you the actual strings set-up of the tuning then that's something that will have to passed on later. I quite jealously guard some of my tunings - this one is not one of the standard tunings like G tuning or open D, it is quite a bizarre one. I believe I've used the same tuning on other tracks.
What are your main guitars at this time (acoustic and electric)?
I still have my old Stratocaster and I have a Paul Reid Smith, which I always get mixed up and call a Piers Paul Reid who is an English novel-writer! I still have my old Yari classical guitar, which cost me £370 in 1973 and I did my guitar teachers exams on that. I have a number of 12-strings. I have my old Alverez, which I used on all the albums I did in the 70s after The Geese And The Ghost. I still have the guitar I used on The Geese which was made by a dear friend of mine called Rivers Job but that's really rather fallen apart. I have a Guild 12-string, which is very good and I now have a custom-made one, which is also very nice. I have a very good 6-string acoustic, a L' Arivee which is Canadian. I have a number of weird and wacky and wonderful ones - too many to mention here, which I use for odd little things, but the ones I've mentioned here are the main guitars I use for recording now.
What was your opinion of the last incarnation of Genesis without Phil? I hope the guys do not call it quits.
To my eternal chagrin I have to say that rather embarrassingly I really know very little about it. I was aware of the whole process going on and heard the story about Ray joining but the whole thing sort of passed me by and I didn't really hear it. So apologies about that but I can't really tell you.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, which is late autumn in England, I'm working on a number of television scores for wildlife programmes. I've just finished doing a big Library album. Unfortunately there are no definite recording plans of my own at the moment.
Any releases planned?
Nothing definite. There are some possible things for the future but nothing definite at the moment.
This is not a very serious, but good question: what would you think about working with Tony Banks or/and Mike Rutherford (and possibly Phil Collins) again?
I think it's very very unlikely that any of that would ever happen. Once you leave Genesis it doesn't seem to work that people get back together and work as a full-time thing. Mike Rutherford was my original partner for song writing so it's not inconceivable that we could end up working together again. We have done a couple of small television things so that's not impossible but I think anything beyond that is in the realms of fantasy.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are just to see how it goes. I'm concentrating most of time at the moment on writing television music because that's going very well and there s a constant demand for that, so unfortunately other things are really being put on the back burner at the moment. That's not to say that there won't be more output from myself. There are things in the pipeline but nothing I really want to talk about because it would raise expectations and I'd also feel that I'd have to do them!
Any specific opinions about records Genesis did after your departure? (The Lamb, Foxtrot, A Trick of the Tail, Invisible Touch, any others?)
I don't think it's right for me to comment too much on that because I wasn't part of the group and they had reasons for going in the various different directions that they did do. I've always been a huge admirer of the other people in the group. The albums of which I was familiar were some of the ones in the early Seventies. I would say that the albums developed brilliantly. From The Lamb onwards I'm not really familiar with everything they've done. I would say that for me Selling England By The Pound was one of their best from that era.
Some views about the music market today?
That' s a very wide question. I think it's a bit narrow sadly, we've ended up at the old pop and classical divide where the two mistrust each other. Most of the so-called pop music that most classically-orientated people hear is still lowest common denominator aimed at youngsters - it's necessary but it's not the full story. Most of the classical music that people from the pop side hear tends to be the more formal pieces and so you've still got this huge gap. Unfortunately in the middle lies a whole swathe of interesting music with pop influences and some with slight classical influences but the majority don't really hear it unless they track it down. The Internet has made things easier from that point of view but in terms of actually hearing things and discovering things it's not necessarily made it much easier. It's made it more easily obtainable. I would bemoan the lack of choice and say that because it's an industry and money is the key thing governing it you're inevitably going to find that the lowest common denominator music across the board is going to dominate which is obviously regretful.
Hi Ant, I am from Argentina and I've been listening to your music for many years. I would like to know if the 2nd Archive Collection is coming and when. I have the first one and it's a treasure!
Well that's very sweet of you, that's very nice. I think it's a possibility - certainly one of my very very industrious colleagues who shall not be named is even as we speak delving into the long-forgotten past trying to prise something substantial out of the vaults to see if we can have another one. I think it's possible but it's not definite. I'm awfully glad you like the first one and now I feel more confident.
Do you find it viable to do some work, maybe an album with Steve Hackett? Do you like his work?
In an interview with Steve Hackett the question was put to Steve whether he would be interested in making an album with Anthony Phillips. Steve responded that he would love to if Anthony were up for it and time permitting; such a project might be another Genesis revisited type album perhaps, Steve suggested. My question for A.P. is whether he would consider a collaboration (perhaps one might get Mike Rutherford involved).
I do like Steve Hackett's work. I have an enormous respect for him - he's a much better guitarist than I am. Mind you he does spend all his time playing the guitar whereas I spend most of my time sitting at a computer with one hand on a keyboard! I think it's unlikely that we would ever do anything together because we're probably quite similar in some respects. Most of the best musical combinations are between complimentary opposites really. I never got to know Steve very well although I do respect and admire him and I think that there does have to be that element. I also think that there has to be an element of commercial need as well - I don't mean commercial in a bad way but there needs to be something driving you together. I can't see a record company commissioning us to do anything so it would require self motivation and I don't think either of us really know each other well enough for that to happen, so I think it's unlikely.
It would be great if you give a concert. Are you still afraid?
Yes, I am still afraid and I am more afraid than I was all those years ago because everyone has got so much better and I haven't! I always say the same thing really, which is that it's not impossible. Practically speaking it would take an enormous amount of time to rehearse a whole set and then go out and do it and it's really not a my full time career. My full time career is television music so it would mean dropping out of that for so long that until in some sort of fanciful way to semi-retire from that to doing exactly what I wanted without any financial risk it's unlikely but not impossible.
Did you regret having left Genesis later? If you had the opportunity of joining them again, which year or era would you choose? Early Gabriel, 1976-77 with Hackett, in the eighties, or in the nineties?
I have qualified regrets about leaving because it would have been great to be involved in some of the music that came later. The group wasn't working as a unit when I was in it so somebody had to leave and it happened to be me so I can't really have many regrets because it was necessary for the longevity of the group. Things weren't going well for me personally at the time so I don't think it could have worked. In an ideal world then of course it would have been lovely to have been part of that music. In a way I would tend to go for the stuff from the Seventies rather than the Eighties because it just became more geared towards the charts. I think it was very good music still but perhaps there was not quite so much innovation in some respects although it was masterly in it's own way. So if I were to have been a part of it I would have to say the period between the early and middle Seventies.
Which Genesis period do you like most?
Again, I have to say that I'm not intimately familiar with the later periods so I would have to say the early to mid Seventies.
Do you like acoustic guitar? Or do you prefer the classical one?
I like all acoustic guitars. My favourite guitar if I had to take one to a South Sea Island would have to be 12-string but I do love the classical guitar and I like 6-string as well. If I had to list them in order of preference it would be 12-string and then classical guitar.
Think of a musician you have never worked with and you'd like to work, which one would it be?
That's a difficult question. From the point of view of ultimate musical challenge and music that might have an enduring worth there would be all sorts of people from the classical world. If I was thinking of music that would be more instantly commercial but would still have worth I would probably choose somebody like Sting. I think that his music has class but it also has immediacy - it would be great fun to be involved with that but it would also have depth as well. And I would be very rich!
Who is your favourite guitarist?
For a classical guitarist I would still say Julian Bream. For electric guitarists there are too many to mention really. I still have to say Clapton, Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Peter Green from that era. The technique of people like Steve Vai and John Maclouglin is mind-boggling but some of it is a little too fast and frenetic for me. I don't tend to listen to many other 12-string guitarists but of the ones that I have heard I've really respected people like Ralph Towner and Leo Kottke. Mike Rutherford would probably be my favourite 12-string guitarist. Of other guitarists I would say in the electric guitar area there's Andy Latimer and whoever did the solo on Steely Dan's Third World Man on Gaucho.
Who was/were the artist/band/musician that made you decide to become a musician?
There was a succession of influences really - it started with The Shadows, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones so the Sixties boom really.
OK, my question: the extra tracks that were meant for Wise after the Event but ended up on Back to the Pavilion (Magic Garden, etc.). Where were they intended to be sequenced on WATE?
On Wise After The Event we had an idea for the album which obviously had two sides and an extra EP. The idea for a running order on side one was We're All As We Lie, Pulling Faces, a sitar and oboe link which became Sitars and Nebulous, Squirrel which ended up as a B-side and Wise After The Event. On side two the order was Regrets, a We're All Was Lie link which became Romany's Aria on Private Parts 2, Moonshooter, the Paperchase link which became Chinaman and then Now What? On the EP Greenhouse and Paperchase were on side one and side two was going to be Birdsong and the Reprise.
The track that became Romany' s Aria was not designed to be like that. It was just when we had the tape on the machine back to front the sitar sounded so wonderfully cheerful like an Italian Aria that we thought that we must put it on. Tremulous and Magic Garden were drafted in for inclusion somewhere but it never really got very far and this was just a sketch.
Please ask Anthony to talk to Peter Cross and have him sell prints of his work (this might be done via Camino Records web site).
Peter is so busy at the moment being very successful doing his greeting cards that I think it's very unlikely right now that he would really be interested in organising that. But it's not impossible for the future and certainly a very good idea for which I very much appreciate the prompting.
Will there be any chance to hear some bits or the whole musical Anthony wrote long ago, either on CD or live on stage?
It's never impossible that the musical might be revived as musicals do get revived from time to time. Our musical was quite complex and I think it's unlikely but not impossible. There is an idea being mooted for a future compilation CD to include some of the lost eras of song writing and this would include elements of the musical. It's not definite but it's an idea that being talked about perhaps to include tracks from the mooted musical Masquerade of which our version never came to anything in the end and also some of the demos for Alice. Unfortunately the final versions of the Alice tracks aren't in any state to be used.
How was it to work with the orchestra for the beautiful 'English Pastoral' CD and will there be more projects like this? It is one of the best productions of Anthony yet!
I'm very flattered by your comments about the English Pastoral CD. I always feel slightly embarrassed about commenting too much on my television or Library music in relation to fans of my solo work because where my solo work is concerned I do pretty much what I want to do and where my television work is concerned I'm often told if not what I've got to do then pretty much the parameters in which I've got to do it. So I've always been tempted to keep the two very separate even to the point of having a different name for the Library music. I would be the first to admit that a lot of the stuff on English Pastoral is derivative but then the point of the commission was to come up with things that were in the Vaughan Williams and Elgar idiom because this is what the Library companies get asked for. The copyright situation is such that it is very financially viable for the Library company to have music that is in a similar style. I would be embarrassed if too many of my own fans knew the album because I think it has merit but I think it probably has more merit as TV music than anything else. I think it's unlikely that there will another one like that for a while as that was the first orchestral one that Atmosphere had done and whilst it was immensely enjoyable and a great privilege to hear the real instruments it's something that they will see as having a long shelf-life as it's not reliant on passing fashions. It's not inconceivable that they may commission a drama-orientated one at some stage over the next two or three years but nothing would be definite about that. So I'm very glad that you enjoyed it.
Since Ant's musical output has been wonderfully prolific I've often wondered what he considers to be the motivation behind his consistent level of quality releases. A simple love of music would be an obvious reason...but the music Ant creates reaches deep emotional levels. I'd love to know what makes him tick musically what inspires him and maybe pinpointing sources for his seemingly ever-spawning creativity.
I suppose the most simple and direct answer to that is the desire for nourishment! Most of us have to work in order to eat. But being serious obviously there s an element of that in it but I do still retain a love for music and an enormous frustration with what I perceive to be the inadequacy in what I've done in many respects. This propels me on to try and do better things. Once I've done one piece of work I m nearly always very unhappy with it, I can't bear to listen to it for at least six months although it can be a pleasant surprise coming back to things. As part of the process you never really enjoy what you've done. You enjoy it while you are writing it, during the recording process it can become tedious and then painful as you search for some combination of instruments that you've got in your head. So I m always moving on and I think it's partly that relentless quest to try and do better that keeps me going
The Geese and The Ghost is one of my favourite records of all time, and Mike Rutherford's Smallcreep's Day has your fingerprints all over it. Any chance that you and Mr. Rutherford will collaborate again someday?
We have collaborated on one or two television things and although I don't know what will happen as Mike's career might move possibly away from mainstream pop it's not impossible that we might do something together. But at the moment I can only really say that there's nothing definite planned. I'd have to go on record and say that this is something that potentially I'd enjoy although I don't know if we've moved apart over the years to make it last on any cohesive basis but I would hope that the old empathy is still there.
Why did the "Sides" album contain one pop and one prog-rock side?
That was the idea of the record company. I tried to mix it all up but it was very much the position that as things became more compartmentalised and having to try and attract record company backing in terms of singles it was decided rather than keeping things almost too eclectic and mixing them up to give people two definite sides so that listeners could dip into one side and then the other. It's personally not what I think is the right idea, I prefer light and shade in music but that was part of the commercial exercise.
Any plans to do another pop project after Invisible Men?
Not really. I still write songs here and there and I've got quite a big backlog now. I did a lot of more simple song writing in the early Nineties and it would be great fun to try a selection of songs which were not quite as bright and poppy as some of the Invisible Men songs but certainly which retained some of those elements. So a song album is something that I would like to do but again it would take a big investment of time and I'd have to try and get my tonsils going again or another singer.
Indiscreet one: how was the situation with Genesis taking "certain substances"?
Genesis was pretty free as far as groups went; it was a pretty drug-free zone.
What do you think would have happened to Genesis hadn't they met Jonathan King?
I would like to think that given the talent of the people involved that they would have still have been successful although I don't know whether they would have come together in quite the same way. The fact is that although Jonathan King gave us a great start the group effectively hit a wall after the Jonathan King period so although we learnt a lot it's not as if when we went on the road and got our first record deal as though we had a leg up in any obvious way beyond having been brought together and given encouragement to record the previous album. So it's entirely possible to say that the group would have just by-passed that period of the first Genesis album and the pop singles and still have got together in a country cottage and seen what we could have done. The music from that period owed very little to the previous period although it could be argued that it did all grew out of that coming together on the first album and maybe that if we hadn't been signed by Jonathan King it wouldn't have happened. I think the group was determined enough to make it anyway.
How was the attitude back in 1968:" if we wont get a record contract within 2 years we'll break up" for example?
That's a very difficult question to answer. It may well be true that if the group hadn't had the publishing contract and then the albeit short-term record contract that it wouldn't have lasted and it would have broken up. Whether or not we would have had the courage to go on the road on the basis of no previous record contract and taken a chance is a very moot point. I would again refer to my last point that when we started on the road we weren't really benefiting in any way in terms of fans that knew the album who were following us around. We were really starting from square one but perhaps we had that other bit of confidence that came from the previous period. It is a fair point that had there not been a contract that we might well have broken up.
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