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Brand X Special: An Urorthodox History
Not Dead Yet live
Richard Macphail Ma Book Of Genesis

The Musical Box's creative minds:
Serge Morissette and Sébastien Lamothe

An interview from the A Trick Of The Tail tour 2008 - Frankfurt, October 03, 2008

it: When you compare the Trick Of The Tail show to the previous shows you did, what are the main differences or similarities?
Serge: Well, in terms of visuals, it’s, I would say an extension of The Lamb in terms of slides. They were integrating movies, so it is all a step further. First it was screens with slides but now there are movies. So they’re going a bit forward about that. The costumes, they changed in a way that there is only costume but it’s not the main line of the show. It’s just a little glimpse at the past. It was appropriate to the song, but it’s totally different [from previous shows].
For the lighting the same approach was used. It was the same lighting guy, but they had a new effect which was the laser. At that time they were the first band to have a laser onstage, so it was quite the beginning of a real lighting experience. Genesis went very to great lengths with the light development. This is, or was, the first effort +they actually saw ?+
Sebástien: I guess musically it was the same. It was pretty much the same approach, I think. The group’s dynamic changed, of course. Gabriel left. I am tempted to think that in the studio the dynamic was very different, but it was always… First of all, we keep mentioning this, the band was under very public pressure, and they knew they had to perform, and you can sense that in the writing of Trick Of The Tail. The performance is actually very impressive. Every station has again tried to go beyond their abilities, pushed a lot of the writing, a lot of intricate little parts, a lot of studio work, a lot of dubbings.
They really tried to impress as much as they could… Rhythmically speaking, a lot of people were very impressed, even in the band, with musical parts like what we like to call the keyboard solo, the arc, in RA&B, the writing, the bars, the rhythm – everything is very impressive, the writing and rhythmic aspects. Obviously, this is completely a visible extension of what they started to do with The Lamb.
In that case I guess they really could not focus more, unless on being lyrical and leave more space for something more lyrical, specifically with Gabriel with all the lyrics he had and everything else, and bring more and more of the instrumental performance.

it: What are the major changes in the old songs that you play now and they played in ’76?
Sebástien: Well, obviously we are trying do changes or little arrangements that they would do in ’76. That’s our goal. That’s always what we’re trying to do. The main difference is, first of all, lyrically. Phil Collins would try to make it a bit more personal to his tone of voice and his appearance and personality on stage, but beyond that, musically, it has always been kind of the same: Rhythmic aspects, they became more loose, they got loose with Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford trying to follow that since 1973, basically.
So they’ve always tried to – we must not forget that they wrote these songs under a lot of pressure in the studio in a few months, and then they’re touring for a couple of months. They go back to the studio, write this new album, they go on tour - you know, it never really stopped for them. Obviously, riffs that they wrote two or three years ago… they evolve, they’re a bit more capable, they want to try a new way, they want to jam. The rhythmic aspects of the songs, a lot of time they’re more jammed, they’re more loose.
We have all these versions of little solo parts, more instrumental parts, but again what seems to be the core of the song writing is – a lot of time Tony Banks or even Steve Hackett – pretty much played what they wrote. That’s like the main melody, the main structure, and since that’s their role it is pretty rare that they change anything on their side. It’s really more the rhythmic aspects, they evolve and change and become more like improvised to a certain extent.

it: Did this change? Ten years you wanted to play like it was on the album. Do you now want to play like Genesis live?

Sebástien: No. I’d say.. I don’t like to use the term because we always say we don’t compromise. We always did the same: We introduce live effects when they only happened live. We feel we have to bring them on stage because it is part of the live experience and the performance at the time. We try to render the reality of things. Certain things, for example, the famous drum duet – two drummers playing at the same time, that doesn’t exist on a studio [recording], so that’s obviously an energy we want to take on stage because it was totally part of the act.

What we decided to do most of the time is the classic approach of The Musical Box which is Trick Of The Tail songs are played as studio versions as much as we can, just like we always did. They were the new studio songs. All the other songs are coming from the past. They’ve been modified, changed, arranged, arranged for two drums, and that is something we’ve decided to bring on stage. It would not make any sense to try and play these songs like in the studio because that does not exist anymore with Genesis. In 1976, Supper’s Ready is not the Supper’s Ready of ’72. It wouldn’t make sense for us.

Serge: We just did a few things, for example the introduction of Supper’s Ready is acoustic, not electric. That’s choices we made. The introduction of Firth Of Fifth we kept – they did not play it live. There are things we keep like in the studio because it made no difference in the act, but we still keep the goal of playing the albums when we can. But as Sebastien said, sometimes it made no sense because of the visuals, because of the way of Phil. It was Phil’s way of singing Supper’s Ready so we had to adjust the song in a way that it fits what he was singing – the way he was singing.

Sebástien:  Like the Bruford experience Genesis had. You know, Genesis keep stating even to this day how important is was to them to have had such a musical personality on stage with them. You can’t have somebody act like Bill Bruford in times of drum playing and expect him to play Phil Collins’ parts in the studio album of 1972. It would make no sense. So it’s obviously the same thing: The studio versions of the new songs from the Trick Of The Tail album, and then all the live arrangements brought into the older songs. That’s how we wanted to have it.

it: What was the most difficult aspect of creating the Trick Of The Tail tour?
Serge The most difficult thing? [pauses] Everything. It is a big job to build a show even if it is a reconstruction.
it: There are less pictures.
Serge: Yes, it was very hard to find documentation about that show. Peter had left. People were less interested in taking photos because they did not know if they show had visuals. So there was not a lot of documentation. We had access to the original slides. Genesis were very supportive and helped us as much as they can. We found some people who worked on the original tour and they helped us reconstruct the laser and the flower. So we had some help but there was less documentation about the show that about the previous show. Fortunately there was a Genesis In Concert movie so at least we knew those songs visually. Even though there were some parts of the movie that were not related to the film, but anyway… The most difficult part for me was to try and find information about the tour. And the other thing I realized was when I got photos from the beginning of the tour they were different from the end. So the show changed throughout the tour, not in terms of the setlist, but in terms of visuals, some of the colours were changed, things like that. Even if I had found a complete film of the first show it would not have been as interesting. They were developing it. The last part of the tour was more what they wanted to do, really.

it: So was this [TMB] show more like the end of the tour?
Serge: Yes. Fortunately, most of the photos I found came from the end of the tour. I got a lot from Montreal and Ottawa, of course, because that’s [mumbles something]. That was at the beginning of the tour. So I could see the difference from the same part of the show on the European tour. But we are doing the European version.

it: Did you get the original slides for the tour from Genesis?
Serge: Yes.
it:  Did you get them together with the Lamb slides years ago?
Serge: No, I went back to ask them. They were a different format. They were stored separately. We had to find a way to reproduce them because they’re called “super slides”. It’s not a slide format that was used for The Lamb or Selling England By The Pound. It is a square format. The image is a square, not a rectangular format. So we had to find a way to copy them and then use them for our show. We had to go back and ask for these. But they were willing and they asked us if we could check whether they were in order; they’d be happy to know [laughs]

it: What was most difficult from a musical point of view?
Sebástien: The most difficult bit is always the same. I am very fortunate to work with very talented musicians and people so I’d have to say… Again, we had the opportunity to access some information from the original tracks of the album so that makes our job much easier. Not only easier but more enjoyable because, at the end of the day, when you work on a chart you know that you’re doing the right thing, as opposed to trying to guess what’s going on.
Musically the most difficult thing is -  I forgot we had not been re-doing a new show for years and years – eight years! – the last time we put on what we call a pre-production, put a new show on its two feet – I forgot the kind of energy and intensity of the process. And we’re getting older not younger and I think we did just everything we could to prepare ourselves and all the information we have and all the new things we use to make our job easier and the working conditions better – all this didn’t cover at all, it was very difficult. I forgot about that.
Yes, it was very exciting, a lot of fun. But we are still working on the sound. I am obsessed with sound. With Genesis sound is about balance and tones and EQ’s and so on – it’s so rich and dynamic, and that is what we’re trying to reproduce. Our real work once we have all the pieces together is that we do not only have to fit them there, but fit them properly and perfectly in every venue. When you have played for years and years to certain songs with certain instruments and certain balance you are kind of used to it and you come back to it very fast. When it’s new you start from scratch, and it is extremely difficult for us right now since we just started the tour. It was going to take us weeks to say “we’re at a point where we are comfortable with what we’re sending, what the audience is listening to.” That was the most difficult part. It’s not the rehearsals or the listening to the songs.

it: Let us talk about the singer situation. There has been lots of talk about how Ron was engaged. And many people felt disappointed that Martin [Levac] didn’t take over the vocals. Can you tell us a bit about this?
Serge: About Martin I think people should ask him why he didn’t do it.
it: But you asked him? It was his decision not to…
Serge: Yes, it was his decision not to do it.
Sebástien: Actually, we approached a bunch of people in the past year. And it was something that was discussed when Denis showed interest in taking the role. We also tried working with this gentleman called Ron Belgard which was like another Phil Collins clone in Canada. Things didn’t work out like we wanted to. We felt the performance wouldn’t be ready or strong enough so we kind of opted for the internal version which was Denis impersonating Phil Collins at that point. There is really not much more to say than that. At the time it just seems like the best and most effective decision to us.

it: I mentioned this to Serge [Morissette], too: For us fans it is difficult to see Denis on stage because we see Peter in him always. And seeing Peter on the Trick Of The Tail show is a bit difficult. There are mixed emotions about it.
Sebástien: Yes, I mean that’s it: He’s just playing another role, isn’t he?

it: What are your future plans now?
Sebástien: Well, we just started the tour, you know.
Serge: We are going to do the show in North America in spring and some gigs in Canada. So we will spend most of winter and spring doing the tour in Canada and North America.

it: With Denis?
Serge: Yes.

it: Are there plans to maybe replace Denis with Ron when he’s ready?
Sebástien: You’re asking us questions we didn’t discuss, really. There are no plans. This works, this is comfortable. Everybody is getting more accurate in their own role, things are going to settle down with time. Who knows? We have worked with a lot of different people. We always go back to the same, you know. Some people are throwing these names around. I’ve been asked in an interview about Ron Belgard. I was very surprised about it. I guess people follow what’s going on, but we always try to keep away from names, participants and all that. We don’t want to promote anyone. We’re really interested in what Genesis were doing, and we worked with people who are interested in doing the same.
I guess the real answer would be: People who are not with us aren’t because they are not really interested in our way of doing things. They have their own way of seeing this. The whole accurate reproduction and history-based actions, I guess, is not something everybody is interested in. But we like to keep that mission very clear. It has always been this thing for fifteen years. Anybody who would be uncomfortable with that would actually not join or leave at some point, or we would decide to work with somebody else who is more interested in that as opposed to their own image or career.

it: Thank you very much.

Sebástien: Sure. It was a pleasure.


questions by Helmut Janisch

transcribed by Martin Klinkhardt