Private Parts & Pieces

Ant talks about the first album in the Private Parts & Pieces series

Interview by Alan Hewitt & Jonathan Dann

What was the rationale behind releasing this particular album?

Well there was no rationale really, it was an accident.  It was not possible to get any acoustic music released at that time.  Sides was being made and there was a lot of pressure to be more commercial.  I made the compilation up largely because I was told by Tony Smith that Brian Eno had a label that was just starting which might put out instrumental music.  So the compilation was made up just of things that I'd recorded throughout the '70's at home and Eno's company weren't interested apparently, as they were aiming for the more ambient synth based things.  I'd rather given up on the idea after that.  But when Sides came to be released, the idea of the album coming out with it turned up, although I can't remember whose idea it was.  At the time a lot of people said that it was very refreshing to hear some acoustic pieces like that.  There's no doubt that without the support of Tony Smith for the idea it wouldn't have happened.

Where was the album released first?  Did it come out in it's own right in the States before appearing in the UK?

I'm afraid I can't remember, we're doing this interview about 15 years too late! (laughter).  I think the albums appeared almost simultaneously or at least within a few weeks of each other.  There was certainly no great gap between the two releases.  I remember doing a promo tour for Sides in the summer of '79 so I feel that Private Parts came out later in the States.

Tell us a little bit about each track on the album.

The album did account for the best of the music that I recorded at home.  Recording in those days was very different as you had to go to big outside studios if you wanted to record anything of any size.  Home recording studios didn't really stretch to doing anything with much scope or a great number of tracks to it.  So I just used to record acoustic guitar pieces and piano pieces as well as the occasional simple song throughout the '70's.  There were a couple that came from before '74, and then some that came from the summer of 1976 when I was trying to forget what was not happening to The Geese & The Ghost at that time.  Beauty & The Beast was an early piano piece where I experimented with things like different speeds.  Field of Eternity was an early long instrumental piece which I took this guitar piece out and developed it into a solo.  Tibetan Yak Music was from around the time we were doing some of the Tarka demos in early '76; that was recorded with Harry Williamson.  As I played he was changing all the graphic equalisation so the guitar goes through timbre shifts.  That was virtually improvised.  Harmonium in the Dust came from '74, just before The Geese & The Ghost.  Once again it was just a harmonium-based piece.  I didn't have a synthesiser then so that was the only sustained sound available!  The guitar piece called Reaper actually dates back to 1970, just after leaving the group.  Seven Long Years was a lullaby that dates from '74.  I was lucky in a way to be able to draw on the best bits from seven or eight years worth of writing and recording.  Autumnal was a piano piece from 1972 and I was given a lot of encouragement by Mike Rutherford at that stage.  Autmnal was subsequently orchestrated for inclusion on The Geese & The Ghost and we did record a demo version of it that exists somewhere.  It was played to Tony Stratton-Smith and he didn't go for it at all.  He didn't like Collections either.

The album certainly seems to have become one of the most consistent sellers from the back catalogue.

Yes that's very true, it's done well compared to some of the others. 

Was all the material written by yourself for the album apart from Field of Eternity?

Yes, although I credited Mike for that track as it seemed only fair in some respects.  There's a snatch from the theme of Pacidy in that which was basically Mike's theme.  The rest of the material was "home-grown" although Harry played an important part in the sonic reproduction on Tibetan Yak Music.  I recorded a fair amount of piano pieces during 1972 and Back to the Pavilion from the next album was done at exactly the same time.

Where did the idea for the title come from?

I think it was my title actually.  I knew Peter Cross pretty well by that stage and we'd developed a nice line in puns so that's where that came from.  The visual idea of the character with the kit bag was definitely Peter's idea.  I seem to remember Tony Smith being fairly receptive towards it as well.

Did Peter have the chance to hear the music before he did the cover?

Yes he did.  The thing that sticks in my mind the most about the album is the fact that at the time I had no idea about making a master up for an album.  I'd mixed a lot of the stuff down myself and as a result there were a certain amount of technical errors.  When I took the tapes to Trident studios to master it, Ray Staff had to do a lot of work on it as there were so many problems with it.  There's all sorts of weird and wonderful things going on if you listen to the album closely.  In the pre-CD era things had to sound right or they couldn't physically be cut on the record.  That was the famous time when Ray said that it would be a piece of cake to cut!  The earliest pieces would have been recorded on 2 track on a Revox and the later pieces were recorded on a four track Teac.  By that time I also had dbx noise reduction, which helped.  Beauty & The Beast was actually recorded in "fake" stereo as I was flipping from one track to another within the machine.  On that piece both tracks are slightly out of sync with each other but it's fast enough not to matter. 

What instruments were you playing on the album?

Beauty & The Beast had the pin piano, which is just an ordinary piano with drawing pins under the hammers.  In the Genesis days we used to do it all the time with the old piano at Send as it creates a sort of harpsichord sound.  There was also the harmonium.  The piano was in fact still the same one I have now, the Challen.  The twelve string was still the one made by Rivers Job which was also used on The Geese.  It's very hard to play as it has such a high action.

One thing that ties in with this period is the music book, Six Pieces for Guitar.  One of the pieces in there is Field of Eternity, but have any of the other tracks ever been recorded?

Nocturne is also in there and one of the studies is actually Spring Meeting.  That's the only manuscript that I've had published as it's very hard to get guitar music published.  We did try pretty hard to get the scores of Antiques published but that didn't happen as we weren't well-known rock stars or avant-garde composers.  If you publish difficult works then it means that only a few people can play it and they don't make much money from it so you have to aim for simple pieces that everyone can play.  I'm not so commercially minded so I didn't think about toeing the line and doing simple stuff at first.  The contact with Weinberger was Morris Pert as he had works published by them.  One day it would be great to have more of the scores available.

Coming more up to date with the CD issue of the album, there were of course the two extra tracks added to the album.  Tell us a little about each of them.

With Silver Song, I did a number of versions of the track over the years.  There was an attempted single version done under the auspices of Arista which was done during an all-night session with Rupert Hine, John Perry and Trevor Morais.  The strange thing with that track is that often the punters like it but the musicians don't.  The only result of that session was wasting the record company's money!  Every time a project came up it was a case of trying to get Silver Song in there somewhere - bits of it even ended up in Alice! (laughter).  The version included on the CD comes from a period where a number of us were trying to write some songs for an Eric Clapton album, which Phil Collins was producing.  So I had a go at making it slightly countrified so that's why that version is how it is.  That must have been version 47b! (laughter).  Stranger was a new recording as the original had too many mistakes.  It may well be that the best version of that was the one from 1970 that was lost along with those original tapes.  Stranger dates back to 1969.  Genesis used to do that and the others called it "Strangler" as I couldn't make the high notes in the middle section.  One of the early Genesis tapes which we recorded with Alec Reid (the producer of Night Ride) had a version of that on it played by the band.

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