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The Last Domino? Tour
Michel Colin Interview Genesis Phil Collins

Interview with Michel Colin (August 2021)

Sound Engineer with Phil Collins and Genesis

For almost 20 years Frenchman Michel Colin is the touring sound engineer with Phil Collins and Genesis. He is in charge of the concert sound and toured with Phil Collins on the 2004-2005 First Final Farewell Tour and on the 2017-2019 (Still) Not Dead Yet Tour as well as with Genesis on the 2007 Turn It On Again Tour. Literally he has been all over the world, indoors and outdoors, rain or shine. On the upcoming Genesis The Last Domino? Tour of course he is once again the Front-of-House-Master. During the band rehearsals for this tour he kindly took his precious time to answer our questions. He gives an insight into his work and talks about his professional background.

GNC: How are the rehearsals going?

Michel Colin: Actually very good. Today we worked a bit longer than usual to try a few things. We’re almost done here and ready to go. A few days before the first show we will meet again in Birmingham.

GNC: It’s remarkable, that hardly anything has leaked from the rehearsals so far.

Michel: In times of social media everyone is very aware of the fact, that anything you post anywhere will be spread all over in no time.

GNC: Let’s get right to you and your career: How did you get into the sound engineer job at all?

Michel: I finished a school of audiovisual and cinema, then I started working in a cinema as second and first assistant director. But in the same time, I was playing drums in some bands and I started to record my bands and took care of the live sound for these bands and some others. So, short time later, I left the movie industry for the music industry, and then I left the instrument for the mix.That was in the early eighties…

GNC: What have you done and who have you worked with before you got hired by Phil Collins?

Michel: I worked with many French artists like Jane Birkin, Alain Souchon, Maxime Le Forestier, Mireille Mathieu, Sylvie Vartan, Yves Duteil, Sapho. All these singers are not “rock” at all but for them the lyrics and the voice in the mix are very important. I did as well many big festivals in France and Switzerland as FOH engineer with plenty of international bands and stars coming without their own engineer! That was back in the years, now every little band has its proper sound guy. In the meantime, I worked a lot on big events and ceremonies in Europe, Africa, U.A.E. and other. And I made as well, quite a lot of corporate, and finally obviously, some studio work as producer for some French bands and singers.

GNC: And how did you get the job with Phil Collins?

Michel: In the early 2000s my swiss friend Alain Schneebely (who is doing Phil’s monitors for more than 25 years since the first Big Band Tour) introduced me to Steve Jones (Phil’s production & tour manager) during the Paleo Festival in Switzerland. At that time Phil was living there. And Steve proposed me to do a show for Phil’s Little Dreams Foundation. After that, we did some shows in US and started the promotion of Testify. It seems that Phil Collins and the production where happy with my job and I became the FOH sound engineer for Phil’s tours and then also on the Genesis tour.

GNC: What is it like to work with Phil Collins? Is it more challenging to work with such an experienced musician?

Michel: You know, it’s always easier to work with great professionals than with beginners or non-professionals. The pressure is big in that kind of huge shows and you have to provide the perfect sound to the audience. But the quality of the music and the musicians make it very smooth to achieve that.

Michel Colin

GNC: How big is your influence on the show soundwise and in general? Does the band listen to your advice?

Michel: Yes, during the rehearsals and even during the tour we have a lot of exchanges with the musicians and Phil as well. Sometimes they have a request or a question about the sound, and sometimes it’s me who asks them something to try to make the songs sound better. It is a good thing to have a close contact with the artists.

GNC: Have you ever worked with Phil in the studio?

Michel: No, Nick Davis is the man.

GNC: With Phil Collins sitting in a chair ever since the beginning of the Not Dead Yet Tour and now also on the upcoming The Last Domino? Tour, do you have to do „something“ to make Phil sound the same way as he used to when he was standing?

Michel: It’s unfortunately quite impossible to make him sound the same as it was when he was standing up. The voice is less steady and strong than it was before, so I had to adapt my way of working on it with some different processing and miking.

GNC: Why has Phil not released anything from the (Still) Not Dead Yet Tour neither audio nor video? Was anything recorded that would be suitable for a public release? Was any show on that tour professionally filmed?

Michel: This is the choice of Phil’s production, and I can confirm that none of these shows was filmed.

GNC: What’s the difference between working with PC and Genesis?

Michel: The music is different for sure! But the biggest difference is that in Genesis there are three leaders! Three “stars” I have to deal with. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford are very involved in the preparation of the shows with the lights, the video and the sound. They spend a lot of time with me to listen back to the recording of the rehearsals, adjusting their sounds and listening to my mix.

GNC: Is there a significant difference in the staff and/or gear between Phil Collins and Genesis?

Michel: No, it’s quite the same crew and the same kind of audio gear.

GNC: How many people are in the sound crew for Genesis?

Michel: Ten people, including me.

GNC: Please give us a little insight how the upcoming Genesis tour came together. Were you surprised when you got the call to work with Genesis again after a hiatus of more than 12 years? When did you first meet?

Michel: Right after Phil’s Still Not Dead Yet Tour. During the last European leg of the tour, Mike + The Mechanics were opening the show in the stadiums. One night in Berlin, Mike Rutherford came on stage to play the Genesis song Follow You, Follow Me with Phil. Then they did it again few times during that tour. And finally, something happened „in the air these nights“! So, it was not a big surprise when we were called again for that possible new Genesis Tour. In January 2020 we started to rehearse for two weeks in New York City with Genesis. And it was decided to go on tour in the UK the following fall. Unfortunately, this Covid-pandemic has changed all the plans!

GNC: When did Genesis decide to have background vocalists? Were they there from the start or was it at least clear that there would be additional singers when you first rehearsed?

Michel: That was decided when we were working in New York City and they arrived for the production rehearsals in London in October 2020.

GNC:Will you have a „button pusher“ again on the upcoming tour as seen in the 2007 tour documentary Come Rain Or Shine?

Michel: Yes, this job is still there. It’s definitely more professional this time. But this job still can’t be done by a computer because there is no time code. Back in 2007 this was quite a mess.

GNC: How do you prepare for the tour? Do you have to „rehearse“?

Michel: As I said, we do a lot of rehearsals to prepare the tour, and for me in particularly, I listen back to the original songs and my live recordings to memorize the color and the mix of each track.

GNC:What’s most important for you in your job?

Michel: Every single instrument you see on stage should be audible for the audience. This even applies to tiny things like a triangle.

GNC: How did it feel to rehearse last year without actually going on the road in the foreseeable future?

Michel: We’re happy to be together again on a great project and excited to go on the road very soon finally.

Michel Colin

GNC: Can you give us a short overview over your gear for the Genesis Tour?

Michel: All speakers come from L.Acoustics. Roughly we have:

- 24 K1 + 6 K2 L&R

- 8 Kara-II (center cluster)

- 24 K1 + 6 K2 LL&RR

- 16 Kara-II + 6 SB18 (sides upstage)

- 8 A15 (aisles L/R)

- 12 Kiva II (front fills)

- 36 KS 28 (subwoofers)

- 24 K2 (delay L/R)

- 2 S6L 32 (avid consoles, FOH & monitors)

- 1 LV1 (waves console + a number of L1 processors for the signals management, operated by our system engineer Ben Phillips)

GNC: How does a usual working day on tour look like for you? When do you arrive at the venue? Do you have to unload the FOH-equipment from the trucks first? Or has all that been unloaded and set up by stagehands when you arrive?

Michel: Generally I arrive at the venue around 11 am the venue and I start to set up my “FOH world” (console etc.) with stage-hands. The trucks have already been unloaded and the sound crew which starts at 8 am is setting up the PA and the stage equipment. We are ready for a line check around 2 pm. Then we do (or not) a soundcheck around 4 pm.

GNC:Do you have to make a lot of adjustments during a concert or has most of the work been done before?

Michel: During the show I have to tune a bit here and there every now and then. A lot of it can’t be done before. It’s a lot of handwork.

GNC: Is there a live release planned for the upcoming tour? If so, audio and/or video? The tour rehearsals in late 2020 were recorded. Will they be released at some point? Or was that recording only a backup in case of a tour cancellation?

Michel: The recording of the rehearsals was made for the band and us as a working reference. It has been used as well for the teasers for the tour promotion and I used it to make some specials mix for the musicians without guitars or drums or bass etc. Mike asked me to send him such tracks. He does not only listen to them but uses them to practice at home. In any case, I record every show in 2 stereo tracks and multitrack. So…

GNC: What was used as background music for the tour teasers: live recordings from the rehearsals or at least in parts album versions? The fans have had very different feelings and opinions about that.

Michel: For the teasers we in fact only used recordings from the rehearsals for the upcoming tour. But there is a teaser for the North American leg where they used some older live recordings. You can tell from Phil’s voice.

GNC: You mentioned the Covid pandemic. What kind of impact did that have on your worklife apart from the Genesis Tour being postponed and postponed?

Michel: Same for the other shows… delayed and delayed, except for some studio work which was less impacted.

GNC: Do you feel safe traveling the UK and North America in those times?

Michel: Fully vaccinated, taking care and wearing masque… It should be okay.

GNC: Do you think the Genesis Tour will go ahead apart from the Dublin and Belfast shows being cancelled?

Michel: Yes, now that we know that the UK Tour will start in Birmingham on September 20th.

GNC: What’s more challenging soundwise: to work outdoors or indoors? Why?

Michel: There are two different challenges:

- Indoor we have to fight sometimes with the acoustic of the room and reverb which can be huge!

- Outdoor the acoustic is less problematic, but the enemy could be the wind and the rain.

GNC: Which was the most difficult venue for you to set up the sound system in?

Michel: I remember the Amsterdam ArenA which is a football stadium with a full roof made of glass! The reverberation is ridiculous and making music in this venue is a terrific challenge. Some others are hard to set-up because of the difficulty of the access for load-in/load-out, for example the Waldbühne in Berlin.

GNC: What’s your favorite music/group/artist?

Michel: (laughs) So many! From Albinoni to Zappa.

GNC: Do you have a favorite track from Phil Collins and/or Genesis? You can name as many as you like.

Michel: All of it? (laughs)

GNC: Oh, come on.

Michel: Ok, for Phil Collins it’s for example "Billie" (he means: Don't Lose My Number), of course In The Air Tonight or (Something Happened On The Way To) "Heaven". For Genesis I Know What I Like. How fitting! (laughs) But also songs like"Jesus"(He Knows Me), Domino, Firth Of Fifth oder Misunderstanding.

GNC: Did you just accidentally spoil the setlist for the upcoming tour by naming songs the band will play?

Michel: No. Well, some maybe. A few are set anyway or will obviously be played.

GNC: And it seems you like both, pop and prog.

Michel: Yes. I definitely not only like the prog. By the way, back in the 1980s I’ve already been to Phil Collins concerts in Paris.

GNC: You and a few other crew members are known to have gourmet nights every once in a while when you’re on the road. Please name your top five restaurants around the globe where you have eaten on tours over the years!

Michel: Most of the time, when we don’t have a special address, we try to find the best Italian downtown. And most of the time, it’s very good. I remember some fantastic ones in Sweden, Mexico, Canada, New York, Russia, Argentina, Germany… and so on. For us good show goes as well with good food and good wine.

GNC: What are you doing at the moment apart from Genesis? What are your plans for the future?

Michel: I‘ll continue with my regular “clients” in music, with pop, rock and classic as well, some events and a little bit of studio. As I’m retired now, I just do what I’ve chosen to do. In priority for sure: touring with Phil and Genesis.

GNC: Thanks a lot for taking your time to answer our questions. We wish you a successful Genesis Tour. Stay safe and healthy!

Interview: Ulrich Klemt
Photos: Ulrich Klemt, Michel Colin