Peter Gabriel is a man who does things on his own schedule. He’s only released three studio albums of new material since 1982’s Peter Gabriel IV, and he’s resisted the immense pressure to reunite with Genesis for a brief (and highly lucrative) reunion tour. He did call a band meeting in 2005 to talk about it, but quickly changed his mind. Two weeks ago we sat down with Gabriel to talk about his new LP New Blood, but we couldn’t resist grillinmg him about Genesis. Later this week, we’ll post the portions of the Q&A about New Blood, future albums and tours, his love of Bruce Springsteen and the overuse of “Solsbury Hill” in movie trailers. In the meantime, here’s our extended interrogation about Genesis.
Is there part of you that thinks it might be fun to do a few Genesis concerts? Wouldn’t it be a great way to end the band and bring your career full circle?
I did talk to those guys about it on this last round. And then it was growing into this bigger thing and I had all these other ideas that I wanted to do, and I just thought it was becoming . . . I could feel the suction of the black hole. I get on pretty well with everybody – it wasn’t personal issues – I just didn’t want to lose that sort of light-footedness that I enjoy now. And I don’t know what the others would want to do. Phil [Collins] has had a lot of physical troubles recently, back problems that have restricted his drum playing, so there may be other reasons that would make it difficult now. So I assume we won’t lose any sleep if we don’t do more. You know, we had a great run. They did way better after I left anyway. So I don’t think anyone has anything to complain about.
True. But there’s a huge fan base that’s just dying to see you guys onstage one more time. What happens in a few years if Phil’s condition improves?
Oh, I guess, you know if Phil was . . . Who knows. I mean, I did enjoy the Led Zeppelin one for example. I went to that gig, and they certainly worked their assess off rehearsing. The only time I’ve ever had a reunion with Genesis is when they very generously agreed to play the Womad music festival [in 1982], which had lost lots of money at the first outing. And because they were on tour, we didn’t get to rehearse much. And I said, “If we ever do this again, I really want to get it right.”
So never say never?
I won’t say never ever, but it’s in the outside department of the betting shop.
Do you still have all the masks from your time in Genesis?
No. I mean, the flower is all rotted. There was another version of the flower mask somebody made for me a while back, but I think some of those things would need to be remade.
How about the old man mask and the bat wings?
Well, the old man mask was commercially available. With the bat wings . . . most of the stuff wasn’t looked after very well. So, there’s still one or two bits and pieces. But they’d need to be reinvented.
Have you ever thought about singing Genesis songs at your solo shows like you used to do in the late 1970s?
I did actually. I was thinking about doing “Supper’s Ready” for a while and I did talk to the band about it, but I think it was a lot of work for them and we were already on the road and I couldn’t really raise much enthusiasm.
And then Phish – they do these projects where they take an old record and do it. I had a conversation about The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway with them at one point.
Wow. They wanted you to sing it with them?
Yeah. They were thinking about it. That didn’t go anywhere, but those were the only times I sort of thought about it.
On your next solo tour, might you do some Genesis songs?
I haven’t thought about it. Well, at one point I was thinking about doing “Carpet Crawlers” as a solo piano piece. There’s no hard and fast rules, you know? If it feels good and it sounds good, why not?
You’ve sort of taken the same stance as Robert Plant and David Gilmour. All three of you have the chance to reunite with your old bands and play to huge crowds, but it clearly just doesn’t hold any interest with you.
I think if you stick with the stuff that nourishes you the most then you’ll probably be the happiest.
At the same time, a lot of hardcore prog fans are very frustrated at your refusal to do it.
Is that right? Well, I understand. I mean, if it was a band that I was a fan of I’d probably feel the same way. But in a way, you want to hang on to a moment that has come and gone. And you may be able to bring back a lot of memories of that moment, but you are no longer in that moment – and nor are the other ones.
Right, but Led Zeppelin did one final concert and they ended the band on such a high note.
Yeah, I was at that show and I was enormously impressed with what Jason Bonham was doing, so I can see the argument. But I don’t know.
Sorry to keep harping on this one point. People are just so interested in it.
Well, it’s nice that they are. Prog was the most reviled thing in music for many years.
As I’m sure you know, the tribute band The Musical Box recreates 1970s Genesis shows and plays to gigantic crowds.
I know. It’s amazing. They’re probably making more money from it than we did at the time.
Fans are always debating whether or not a film of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour exists.
It does not exist. I think it’s largely my fault. I was a major film obsessive and I had dreams of trying to do things properly, so I wouldn’t allow it. There’s footage of us on an earlier tour at Shepperton Studios. I was promised at the time that it wouldn’t get seen anywhere if I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like it, and it still got used.