February 27, 2015 Interview – Mike Rutherford of Mike + The Mechanics & Genesis
To attain success with one musical project is a crowning achievement, but to do it with two projects is almost unheard of. For British musician Mike Rutherford, a career spanning nearly five decades has seen him reach legendary status, both as part of pioneering Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act Genesis, and simultaneously garnishing hit records with his solo endeavor, Mike + The Mechanics. Always looking to expand his horizons as a song writer, Rutherford has used his ability to craft thoughtful and intelligent tunes to help Genesis land a slew of number one singles that still resonant years later. After a few years touring extensively with Genesis, Rutherford revisited his love for Mike + The Mechanics by resurrecting the project with a new lineup, music, and a 2015 North American tour, the first in over twenty-five years. Recently, CrypticRock sat down with the highly successful Rutherford for a look at his career in music, his decision to regroup Mike + The Mechanics, touring, and much more.
CrypticRock.com –You have really had quite an amazing career in music that has spanned nearly five decades. When you were aspired to be a musician, could you have ever imagined the success you have so far attained?
Mike Rutherford – No, I was very aware though. When you are 18, your career is two years. You cannot see beyond two years, you really can’t. Of course, over the years, you get to a plateau and over a hill, and then another hill. It has been a wonderful, musical journey and I am very lucky to have done what I have done.
CrypticRock.com – Many would say that Genesis is one of the key pioneers in Progressive Rock music. What inspired you and the band to be so daring and experimental with your sound?
Mike Rutherford – I think we just tried to be different, I suppose. Plus, myself, Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, and Steve Hackett together, we had a lot of ideas. We had not come from the Blues, although we loved Blues, R&B, and Motown. But if you had not come from that area, you were slightly more free. So when we sat down to write, all that kind of came out.
CrypticRock.com – A combination of all your influences came out and gave you that range to be experimental.
Mike Rutherford – Yes, we always liked The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, and Motown, you cannot really hear it, can you? But it is there somewhere, probably.
CrypticRock.com – You can hear it in there. A true influence is something that inspires an artist but is not necessarily heard in their music. In the midst of Genesis’ major commercial success, you decided to venture into a new project, Mike + the Mechanics, which became a massive success as well. Do you feel like Mike + The Mechanics gave you a new outlet to allow your song writing to flourish?
Mike Rutherford – Genesis was very unique in the way we ran our solo careers. Most bands start solo careers to leave the mothership, but we were having a great time in the band. If you have been doing this, you want a bit of variety. You want to try other drums, keyboard players, and singers, you want to have a bit of a change. I think for Anthony Phillips, it was done for reasons to find a sort of vertical horizon, and it worked.
CrypticRock.com – Sometimes when you surround yourself with different musicians, different ideas come out.
Mike Rutherford – Absolutely. If I sit in a room with Peter or Phil or Tony, as opposed to The Mechanics, it is just a different combination, which makes it sound different.
CrypticRock.com – In 1985, you began Mike + The Mechanics, and then you had an impressive debut in 1986 when Genesis put out Invisible Touch, a defining record of the decade. What was it like to have so many positive things going on at once?
Mike Rutherford – It is funny because when you are living it, you cannot see it for what it is. You are enjoying the moment. Everything is going right and you cannot believe how well things are going, all for the right reasons. I remember my manager saying it to me in the mid ’80s when we did Genesis albums, solo albums, tours, it was amazing really. When things are going well, it is easy. You are going downhill and it is all working nicely.
CrypticRock.com – Tragically, in 2000, Paul Young passed away at the young age of 53. One can imagine it had to be a hard time for you after spending some so many years working with him. Was it difficult decision for you to continue on with the band after his passing?
Mike Rutherford – Yes, Paul Carrack and I tried an album, but it didn’t feel right. It did not feel wrong, it just was not the same chemistry. I think, without Paul Young we had done that era, so we wound it up. So, for about ten years, I did not really do Mike + The Mechanics material. Then, a few years ago, I wrote some songs which were basically Mechanics songs, so I thought, “What am I going to do?” One thing, we always had an R & B voice and Rock voice, so I found Andrew Roachford, a great R & B singer, then I found Tim Howar. Our first show was my birthday party when I turned 60, at a little club in London. It just worked. I was surprised, not having done much live stuff with The Mechanics stuff, however well the songs worked on stage.
CrypticRock.com – In 2015, you are celebrating the thirty anniversary of Mike + The Mechanics with your first North American tour since initial release of Living Years in 1989. How exciting is it for you to celebrate this milestone and bring the live show back to the USA?
Mike Rutherford – You go with the flow of it. Live shows are more popular now then they uses to be. You cannot take any short cuts, you become a tight band by playing together. You have to know how to make a song work. I have not been to America much recently. I look forward to revisiting all these great places, cities that have been part of my life, really.
CrypticRock.com – As you said, live shows are very popular at this point. Fans have never seen Mike + The Mechanics in America.
Mike Rutherford – I am glad we are coming now. This is our fourth year touring, so I know the band is good. With the two singers, there is a real energy on stage. Touring Europe, everyone knows the songs but not the band. After the show, people are saying, “I knew every single song, I didn’t quite know who they were from.” It’s kind of reminding people that The Mechanics had all these songs, so I am definitely looking forward to it.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of Living Years, the record is celebrating a milestone and made quite a mark, going gold in three countries. Fittingly for this anniversary, you are releasing a deluxe edition with a lot of great extras. Did you have an intricate part in putting this package together?
Mike Rutherford – Yes, pretty much. The live songs came out of cassettes and sound great. It is a nice combination of ideas. “The Living Years” song… Over the years, a lot of songs have been liked by people, but that particular song made people alive sometimes. That is inspiring to have happen in your life.
Crypticrock.com – The title track off of the album is a piece everyone can connect with. There is a very human element to it.
Mike Rutherford – It is kind of a subject matter that I was kind of weary of. If you got it wrong, it may not be very good. It is a funny area and you have to get it right, luckily it did. I said to my co-writer, B. A. Robertson, we will try it, but if it’s not good, we will dump it. It is a very delicate subject matter and idea, but it turned out great.
CrypticRock.com – You released your seventh Mike + The Mechanics album, The Road, in 2011. Is there a possibility of another new studio record in the coming years?
Mike Rutherford – Yes. What I have done is write a bunch of songs. In the states, in sound checks, I am going to rehearse them a bit, but maybe one night I’ll try a new song and see how it works. It is a nice test, if a song can’t work live, it is not a good song, so I have learned.
CrypticRock.com – So, you may test out a few new songs on this upcoming tour possibly?
Mike Rutherford – Yes. I may try one a night and work it in a bit. It is a great chance to try and work new songs and see how they do work live.
CrypticRock.com – Genesis has not released a new record since 1997. Is there ever going to be a possibility of a new Genesis record?
Mike Rutherford – I think it is unlikely, but after years I have learned to never say never. We are getting on a bit, age wise. Like the last tour we did with Phil – who would have thought we would have done that? There are no plans though. We have been going for a long time. People do forget The Stones did not tour for a while, Pink Floyd never toured much. We have toured an awful lot. For the American tours, we used to do two months around, which I loved, but we have a lot of miles on the clock.
CrypticRock.com – You mentioned a little bit about your influences. What are some more of your musical influences?
Mike Rutherford – I think, in a way, I grew up in an amazing time with The Beatles, The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Who. The way I see it, the music scene at that time was a blank canvas with some amazing artists. They were quite brave. It is a little harder now. There are so many artists out there. It is hard to be quite as original sometimes. It was quite an exciting time back then. The other day, I heard The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” on the radio. It is part of nostalgia, but it sounds so exciting still.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of guitar-driven Rock such as that, do you look at your guitar as more a vehicle to compose music?
Mike Rutherford – I think so, yes. There are so many guitar players around me who are incredible virtuosos. I sense my guitar more as a composer. I sit down in my studio, I have my guitar and my pedals. It is a writing vehicle really.
CrypticRock.com – Above all is the quality of the music and you certainly have composed some amazing songs through the years. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and horror films. If you are a fan of horror films, what are some of your favorites?
Mike Rutherford – Yes, Science Fiction. I was a huge Sci-Fi fan. Back in the day when they had Cinerama I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in the middle, on the left, and the right. At the time, Cinerama is what Imax is now. It was amazing seeing that film that way.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is the type of film you need to see a few times to understand.
Mike Rutherford – Exactly, the other day I saw Gravity (2013) on a hotel tv, how bad is that (laughs). I am not a big Horror fan, though. I do like the recent Scandenavian Suspense and Drama films. The blood and guts I don’t mind, but it is not really my thing.
CrypticRock.com – You mentioned 2001: A Space Odyssey. Have you seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)?
Mike Rutherford – Yes, I read the book and it was so good. The film was good, and I loved Jack, but the book was even better. The film got better and better every time you watched it. When I first saw it, I did enjoy it, but the book is so strong. The film has gotten better over the years, as Kubrick does.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and interesting enough, Stephen King is not fond of Kubrick’s interruption of his book.
Mike Rutherford – The trouble is the suspense. It is quite hard to make it visual sometimes, as books can be.
CrypticRock.com – It is difficult when other people give their take on others work. Everyone has a different vision.
Mike Rutherford – One film that I thought was very interesting was The Lord of The Rings (2001). Every single scene in that film is how I saw it in the book. It was quite special, really. I think it came out so much how people would imagine it.