A 15-minute phone conversation with Genesis yielded a few fascinating revelations: Keyboardist Tony Banks puts the odds of a reunion tour with original singer Peter Gabriel at 23.5 percent; Phil Collins’ obsession with building a model railroad in his basement is preventing him from making a new solo album, though he is open to the idea of recording with longtime admirer Akon. The trio called up Rolling Stone to discuss the release of their new DVD When in Rome, a three-disc document of their 2007 reunion tour, which hits stores on June 10th. In addition to live versions of hits like “Land of Confusion” and obscure 1970s gems such as “Ripples,” the set contains a two-hour documentary full of candid backstage moments. Here’s more from Collins, Banks and guitarist Mike Rutherford on everything from their future plans to Alamo artifacts.
The tour was obviously a big success, but was there any part of you that was afraid it wouldn’t do well since it had been so long since you’d been on the radar?
Tony Banks: We were definitely worried about it, actually. We had a fairly good idea it would do well in Europe. When we first floated the idea we didn’t know whether we’d be in theaters or whatever. Finally our promoter over here said, “You can do stadiums.” He was absolutely confident and he had done a bit of research and it seemed to be the way. We put tickets on sale and they went very fast.
On the documentary that comes with the DVD you rehearse “In Too Deep” and ultimately decide not to do it. Were there other songs you tried out that didn’t make the show?
Phil Collins: We tried quite a lot, but you want to get into a rhythm of the show that works. Since it wasn’t a hugely long tour, when you get that pacing right, it’s a normal thing to stick with it. Although we rehearsed a few tunes extra and there was at some point the intention to play “In Too Deep” when we came to America, we decided to stick with what we had since it was working so well.
Why didn’t you bring the tour to South America or Japan?
Phil Collins: It would have been nice to do South America and Japan and the Far East instead of doing Europe and America, actually. [Laughs] That’s just a personal thing. I tried to sort of keep a leash on the thing purely because — without getting into deep detail — I have two young children I don’t want to be away from. Europe was easier because they could visit every couple weeks.
Why did you choose to put the Rome concert out on DVD?
Tony Banks: It was really quite a special show for us. It was a free concert in the Circus Maximus, which is internationally known. It was a free, outdoor concert to a half-million people. It was dark, the weather was great. We decided to go for that one since it was a totally unique show on the tour. Some of the shots when you draw back and you see the Rome skyline look amazing. The whole city of Rome heard it, whether they wanted to or not since we were right in the middle of the city.
I read that a few years ago when you met with Peter Gabriel about a possible reunion tour, he proposed some sort of screen that would project a computer-generated younger-looking version of himself that would mirror his movements and facial expressions as he performed The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway . Can you tell me more about his concept for a possible reunion tour?
Mike Rutherford: We had a meeting about four years ago about an idea of doing a version of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway with Peter and Steve Hackett — just a few shows. It was a very visual album and nowadays with what you can do with screens, we wanted to do something really special. The thought was to maybe, since the Lamb is about a young Puerto Rican kid and Peter is an old English man, it would be harder to portray him. One idea was about trying to do that with technology where Peter’s movements onstage would sync up onscreen with a young face.
Tony Banks: I don’t recall talking about that sort of detail. We’ve been open to the idea for a while, even before we started off on the recent tour. It’s something that … who knows? It might happen. If Peter really, really wanted to do it we’d certainly all talk about it. He’s a very busy man these days. He was one of Time‘s 100 Men of the Year. He’s got plenty of other things on his plate at the moment. Going out and performing The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway 35 years after the event is not high on his list.
If you had to give a percentage for the odds a reunion tour with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett would happen in the next five or ten years, what would that number be?
Tony Banks: I would give it 23.5 percent.
Mike Rutherford: I have no idea. My line is “never say never.”
Phil Collins: Considering it was four years ago since we had the conversation and we thought his album wasn’t far away, and we’re sitting here and it still hasn’t come out and he hasn’t done the tour I think you’re talking about 10 years being the minimum, just in real terms. I don’t think we’re going to be doing that in 10 years time. If we do we’ll all be up on the screen with young Puerto Rican faces. [Laughs]
Is there any possibility of the three of you doing new music together?
Mike Rutherford: Nothing’s planned. Never say never. We discussed the idea and we do enjoy the writing process. It’s quite exciting the way Genesis writes, going in without music and just jamming. An album is a road you get on and you can’t stop it. Who knows?
Is there a possibility for more shows with the three man lineup?
Mike Rutherford: Never say never. Nothing is planned.
I was interviewing Braan Dailer from the metal band Mastodon. He told me Genesis is his favorite group, that Phil is one of his biggest influences and he’s even taken bits of your drumming from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway for Mastodon songs. Are you familiar with that band?
Phil Collins: No, but I don’t get out much. I’ll check it out. There are guys in odd sort of groups that you wouldn’t associate with having Genesis as an influence. That’s what they maybe grew up listening to and their own tastes have evolved into something else, but they still own up to the original influences, which is really nice. I’ll check this group out.
Phil, I’ve read that both Akon and Pharrell Williams want to work with you. Are you open to that idea?
Phil Collins: Yes, I’m aware of that. If I did something I would obviously get them involved to at least see what was going on. I’m actually not doing anything, so I’m loathe to start a ball rolling that there’s no one there to catch. I’m flattered that they’ve expressed the interest publicly, risking their careers (laughs) in doing so. Anything is possible and I certainly would investigate doing that if I did think about doing something.
Can you all tell me your future plans?
Mike Rutherford: I haven’t got very much planned at the moment. I always did Mike and the Mechanics stuff during time off. There is nothing planned there at the moment.
Tony Banks: Four years ago I did an album, an orchestral piece with the London Philharmonic. I really enjoyed that. I found myself recently writing in that zone again. That’s what I want to do again, another orchestral piece perhaps. I learned a lot the last time.
Phil, is there a possibility of a new solo disc?
Phil Collins: Not in the foreseeable future, no. I just got sidetracked with model railroads for the boys — or me, really. I’m building a model railroad in my basement. That seems to be an obsession. There really isn’t any room for music at the moment. I’m sure when the railroad gets close to being finished and I go into my little studio, if something happens I’ll keep going with it. I have one or two things finished and one or two things that are half baked, but nothing that’s even close to being called an album yet.
I’ve read you’ve gotten into collecting artifacts from The Alamo. What’s the coolest thing you’ve gotten your hands on?
Phil Collins: I have all kinds of things. I’ve got rifles, cannon balls. I got an ax the other day, and some documents. Now I’ve moved into digging, not myself physically, but digging for my own self and just acquiring my own stuff. It’s a childhood thing of mine that I’ve managed to actually do in my adult life because I’ve got the money to do it. It’s expensive.