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Interview in Dresden 2019 Mike + The Mechanics

Interview with Mike + The Mechanics in Dresden

Tim, Andrew and Mike sit down with GNC to discuss music and life

Thursday, 11th April 2019. It's a rather cold spring day in Dresden and Mike + The Mechanics are set to play their first continental show of their Looking Back (Over My Shoulder) Tour - or alternatively called Out Of The Blue Tour. A full report about the sold out show at Dresden's Kulturpalast is available at this link.

We were on time but had to wait since a camera team was still working with the band. We used the time to chat backstage with guitarist Anthony Drennan, who remembered very well our interview from 2012. He told us a couple of things about his other recent projects, i.e. Chris Rea, and that Mike first approached him to join the Mechanics after the Calling All Stations tour. It didn't happen at the time due to Anthony's other commitments. By half past four, Christian Gerhardts from (GNC) sat down with Tim Howar, Andrew Roachford and Mike Rutherford for a lively chat.

GNC: So, hello guys, it's nice to have you all together again for an interview. Last time was seven years ago in 2012, also in Dresden, but it was another venue...

Andrew: Yeah, right I remember, what was the name of that venue?

GNC: Alter Schlachthof - you've been there more than once.

Mike: Oh really?

Andrew: Yes, that's the one. Nice club.

GNC: So, let's go back two years first. Let Me Fly, your last album. In retrospect, what do you think about this now, what are your favorite tracks?

Mike: The song Let Me Fly, that we play on stage, it's terrific, sounds great and gets better and better. It hasn't really changed, but it developed. Then of course The Best Is Yet To Come, a great track and Try To Save ...

Andrew: Well, that one was on the one before!

Mike: Oh ok, but anyway - we play like three tracks from Let Me Fly on this tour.

Tim: Well Let Me Fly was a bit like a first departure for the band. When we reformed the Mechanics it was always going to sound slightly different. Time has moved on. And Let Me Fly was more like 'let's see how good a pop song can be written'. It was less about coming together with the right people, like it was on The Road and that was our job then, but Let Me Fly is more about let's see and get some radio play. And we did. We really were successful and even the new album is something like another departure down that route.

Andrew: For me as well. Often artists answer in retrospective, but they are not looking back. You make a record and you move forward. So you don't spend a lot of time thinking in respospect in that way.

GNC: Let's talk about the more recent one then - Out Of The Blue. Tim, where are your vocals on the new songs?

1[Andrew laughs]

Mike: He was in the West End Theatre doing eight shows a week ...

Tim: Yes, exactly. We came back from the American tour and we basically had half a year off, so I played the Chess musical, which was wonderful and then someone got me in touch with Phantom Of The Opera and that was absolutely wonderful as well. So I wasn't as available a necessary to do those things.

Mike: Yes and it was shame, it didn't feel right not to have him on that. But with eight shows a week, you can't do that obviously.

Tim: Yes and then I also have a baby boy now. So there was a lot on the plate. But I don't think there is a real pressure. Mike knows when there's enough material to make an album. But we will find some time. We did this and we probably will be creating more, who knows? The thing with the Mechanics ist, we all have our stuff to do on our own. There's no real pressure. If we want to make something, we make it, if we don't, we just keep going on with life.

Andrew: Time is the issue. There's not enough of this in this industry. There's always pressure to come up with more material. You have to work with the time you have and that's what we did.

GNC: Mike, when did you decide not to do a full new album with new songs?

Mike: The idea came from me, but there was no masterplan anyway. A guy from BMG came saying - 'what do you do with all the old songs that these guys keep singing so well for the last eight years or so?' They change, they have become their version, some even got extended. Some stuff felt quite special, so it felt right to record that.

Tim: It's also for the fans. They did want to have something with the new guys on lead. And somehow that's ours now, too. We've been doing this for the last 10 years so now they have something with our voice what they have been seeing live for 10 years or so. And we are a live band, we enjoy touring and our company.

Andrew: Exactly.

Mike: So we did that. We recorded those songs, had a couple of new ones, there were a few more bubbling around but those three felt right. And we got some nice reaction on the package as well. It's a bit different. The unplugged songs are as well on there. And a whole new album is tough, it's a lot of work these days.

Andrew: And also, when you make a new album, with streaming and downloading these days, people often pick only certain songs. And you spent so long, crafting this whole album when people would find just a few good tunes that they like, you know? I think you don't have to do always a full album. It has changed.

Tim: It's more like a singles market now. Most of the DJs release enough singles to build an album. And we do songs, go on tour and then at some point there might be an album.

GNC: You said, and you are very right, that you are a great live band. Do you know how many shows you have done together?

Mike: Not a clue, tell us!

GNC: After this tour, it will add up to more than 300!

Everybody: Oh wow, unbelievable.

Mike: Shit, I was going to say 120 or 150. Doesn't feel that many.

Andrew: So how many hours have we been playing on stage then?

GNC: Well your sets used to be shorter, so ...

[everybody laughs]

Andrew: uuhhhh I see.

GNC: We are pleased that you play longer now and we come back to that later, but my question now is: Why didn't you decide to do a live album with studio bonus tracks, instead of re-recording the stuff, because you are very strong live.

Mike: I know, but ... live albums don't seem to connect people these days. The live show does of course.

Tim: If we could do something like record the shows and release every show to fans on request like they did with .... erm. Who was it who recorded every show and these shows were printed and sent to the fans?

GNC: Peter Gabriel and Genesis for example

Mike: Yes, we did that.

Tim: Okay. And it would need some extra work obviously...

Mike: We record every night!

Andrew: Yes we record the gigs, but this would be a great idea if you had new songs. So recording shows where we play new songs that people never heard would make sense. So they would not get just a live album, but also new tracks, but live. Not sure if that has been done before. But a live album, it really is hard to capture that thing in the right way. Sometimes you do, but it's nothing you can plan. Each night has a different enegery.

Mike: I don't think many bands do live albums these days, don't hey?

GNC: Well, Toto did quite a big one recently.

Andrew: Yes, I can imagine that.

GNC: Well actually I think you should do a DVD or Blu-ray because you are a fantastic live band, especially with the current line-up, so let people know you are. I just wanted to make my point clear.

Andrew: Oh thanks.

Tim: Yes, you may be right, we think about that.

2GNC: You do some non Mechanics stuff in the live shows, like Roachford tracks, Cuddly Toy on this tour, others like This Generation on previous tours ...

Andrew: And Only To Be With You also!

GNC: Have you thought about being more flxible with these, like changing them more often? Maybe also throwing in some of your stuff, Tim?

Tim: This year was quite a lot with my other commitments, having three children now, trying to balance where I am - rock world or theatre world. Mostly it is rock world. So I would like to finish a solo album. It's just about being in one place for a longer time. I would like to make something more theatre based and then something more solo based and then of course something with these guys here.

GNC: Is that the solo album we talked about in 2012?

[everybody laughs]

Tim: Yes it is acually. The problem is the life, you know. And I was also with another label back then. You want to do something, then they come up with a plan or a deal, it doesn't work and it takes six month to get something else. It should be easier today as I work with new people, I am sure it is.

Andrew: But keep in mind: People come to the Mechanics for a Mike + The Mechanics show and it doesn't necessarily have to feature ther people's songs. We did shows without Cuddly Toy or Genesis songs. If the set works, it doesn't matter, it's not a given ...

Tim: We are not ego driven, we just want to make music and have a good time. And we go with the fans. So when Mike comes up with a setlist and we do that and people seem to like it, then it's ok.

Mike: Yes and it was great, doing two sets, playing more than two hours. When the show works with an hour and 50 minutes, it's also ok, so we'll see.

GNC: What does the future bring for Mike + The Mechanics?

Mike: Oh, we are in the middle of a tour with a new album out, I don't think too much about it.

Tim: The tour is just fun!

Mike: You do something, and then you see where it gets you, you know what I mean? Tim is going back to theatre the day we finish the tour...

Andrew: ... and I am going to have a new solo record out this year!

3GNC: You have signed to BMG as well ...

Andrew [looking a bit surprised]: Yes ...

GNC: I heard that ...

[everybody laughs]

Andrew: Yes BMG will put out my new record. It really sounds good.

GNC: ... called Twice In A Lifetime.

Andrew: Yes, you know more about that than I do [laughs].

Mike: Nice title!

Andrew: About the title: People expect you have a moment in limelight and that's it, but artists never know when things peak and drop.

Tim: Look at Billy Ocean - he had all that fame and is still touring.

GNC: ... or Billy Joel.

Tim: Yes another one! Still doing great stuff on stage

Andrew: Who would have known Santana would have a #1 album after the year 2000 and he also tours?

GNC: Phil Collins ...


Andrew: Yes exactly!

Tim: Just when you're finding out he is still around, he's now more alive then ever, you know? If you want to create, you create. If you want to play live, you play live. But this is not a time driven thing.

Mike: So the answer is: Nobody of us knows. That's okay, I like that.

Andrew: There is no plan and we are all okay with that.

Mike [points on a copy of Out Of The Blue on tha table, raises voice and laughs]: And this came out just last friday!

GNC: Mike, you have touched a sacred cow, when you played an excerpt of the Firth of Fifth solo during the mechanics shows ...

Andrew: A sacred cow! Brilliant.

GNC: Why did you decide to play that specific solo? There are a lot of discussions about this in fan forums ...

Mike: My wife said to me 'when you ever play that f*** Hendrix solo again, I will never come to the show again' so I had to change it [laughter]. No that was just a joke. The thing is, with our Encore Word Of Mouth, we have tried something different by playing a couple of solos from different people. It's meant to be as a thank you and a little moment in time and it really works. So I picked Firth Of Fifth and thought let's try it and yes, that's it.

Tim: And the fans like it! You can tell who has been there since the Genesis days. When Mike does that, you can expect people going 'did you hear that?' and that's nice to see at the end of the show to see people that animated.

GNC: Let's discuss two specific songs. First one is The Letter, which is in my opinion one of the best things you have done. But you have never played it live - why?

Tim: We tried actually, and it's quite a long song. And it takes a lot to get the groove right. But I also love the guitar solo on that song, it's a very Genesis type of song. So we never say never.

Andrew: And it has a great mood! You have to think about, how many songs can you have with a particular mood? When you get in front of an audience you want to entertain them and bring them up.

Mike: It's a bit like Silent Running. I wouldn't do both in one show. That's the thing.

Andrew: Did we ever play it live? I know we rehearsed it.

Mike: Yes, but we didn't do it live.

4GNC: You do some duets on stage on every tour. One used to be If I Were You. There's another song that would fit in this category: A Call To Arms. Ever considered that one?

Mike: No.

GNC: Ok, so then take this as a suggestion from my side.


Mike: There are a lot of nice things we could do. We did also did Nobody Knows and we all loved it, but the crowd somehow couldn't connect.

Andrew: We also did Nobody's Perfect, didn't we?

Mike: Yes.

GNC: In the credits of the new album it says that you, Mike, played bass and did programming, no mention of a guitar ...

Mike: No guitar mentioned?


Andrew: I played the guitars (laughs).

Mike: It's a mistake then, I obviously played guitar.

Andrew: These things happen. We once had been working hard on bass lines and in the end there was no name for the bass player in the credits, it only said 'bass'. Nevermind.

GNC: Mike, you played with Schiller. How did this connection happen?

Mike: Yes! Gary Wallis our drummer has worked with Schiller for a long time and he came to the Farm to record some real drums for the album. Gary said to me, come and say hi, as I live 15 minutes away. And Schiller asked would you play some guitar? So he send me a nice ambient track and I recorded something for him, was nice! [Harmonia, available on iTunes]

GNC: So you still rent the farm to other bands?

Mike: Not really, no, that was a one-off and some kind of favour to Gary.

GNC: But it's still in use?

Mike: Yes.

Andrew: We recorded some of the album there!

GNC: You are Phil's support band for six shows this summer. Any chance you might join him on stage?

Mike: I have no idea.

GNC: Mike, you are approaching your 70ies and you are still touring. Do you sometimes consider retiring?

Mike: Well the tour is great, but sometimes I think, this is a young man's schedule. Three shows, one day off etc. Not sure I will do it again this way, but retiring? No. I don't know. I like doing this and I can't see me stopping. But I'm sure there will be more time off, like gaps, also while touring. I'm still enjoying touring a lot.

GNC: Ever considered doing another real solo album without co-writers?

Mike: No. I can't sing anyway so I would need someone to do it. If youn write a good song, you want a good voice to sing it. But I also believe that anyone could sing, if they start early enough to find a way of doing it. But I never did.

GNC: We had a nice April Fool's trick about Smallcreep's Day and that you are going to rerecord it for the 40th anniversary release - and a lot of people believed it.

Mike: I haven't heard that for years. We had this long suite on it, with a concept, it was nice and also a brave thing to do.

GNC: You should re-release it - cause it's also hard to find these days.

Mike: Perhaps you are right, let me hear it again first.

GNC: Tim, you said you are going to release a solo album as well this year. So can we expect this to come out next year then?

Tim [laughs]: I really hope so! It's again about being in the one place. I will meet Brian Rawlings, who by the way got us all here together to work on a time schedule. Just to lay the basis to make sure that it happens. Hopefully by September. I'm not sure what happens after that. I have also some shows with orchestra type of stuff happeneing etc. But if I go back to America, then the album should be completed by September or October. But maybe I have to join Roachford on tour?


GNC: Andrew, who's going to be in your live band this year?

Andrew: I will have a drummer called, who is quite a young guy. Then Yoyo Bayes on bass, he's been with me for a long time already. My brother is on guitar, and me on keys on vocals. Small band, but big sound. We will go on tour and be doing shows in the UK, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. [click here to see the tour dates]

5GNC: Mike, when you are on tour, everybody wants to know stuff about Genesis. Are you fed up with all those Genesis questions in interviews?

Mike: No, of course not, it's an obvious question.

GNC: Ok, but how realistic is that? It wouldn't be anywhere near the way it has been in 2007 obviously.

Mike: Three years ago I would have said it's definitely not going to happen. But now I saw Phil and he sounds great. Who knows? Well it's about the music in the end. If you asked any fan would you rather see Genesis with Phil not playing drums or not see Genesis, what answer would you get?

Tim: But these guys are in the business long enough, you know.

GNC: There's always a solution, of course, it's just a question of how it's going to be. The thing is, fans usually don't age, only the artists and bands do. Fans often think is has to be the same way like in the 70ies when they go out and play again.

Mike: That wouldn't be much of a problem, we have always found a way to adapt.

GNC: When I heard the acoustic versions on Out Of The Blue, I thought this is great stuff and I like them even better than the band versions, because they are simply different and stripped down. And I thought - why don't you do such a thing with Genesis?

Mike: We always had too much dark stuff for that I suppose.

GNC: Any comments abot the Brexit?

Mike: I hope it goes away, That's so stupid. Maybe it gets lost.

Andrew: For me it became a complete joke. And it's also very confusing. Actually I think many people don't know what's going on and what this is all about.

Tim: It's strange and I like the fact that it keeps getting kicked back. Now it's October. I moved to England because it was close to Europe. Having seen Europe, it's been a wonderful experience.

Andrew: Initially it would have happened already. Imagine this tour, it could have become very complicated.

GNC: Ok thanks for taking some time and the nice chat!

All: Thanks, was a pleasure!

Interview and transcript: Christian Gerhardts
Photos by Florian Stolbrink

Special thanks to Jo Greenwood and Steve Jones for the kind support

A review about the show in Dresden can be found at this link.