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The Banks Vaults Interview 2019

Tony Banks - The Banks Vaults Interview

A new boxset, a different focus, another interview (27th June 2019)


A bit surprisingly, Esoteric announced the release of a new Tony Banks boxset Banks Vaults: The Complete Albums 1979-1995 a few weeks ago. All solo albums (except the orchestra albums) in one set plus a bonus DVD with music videos. We already did an interview with Tony last year [click here to read it], but nevertheless it was a great opportunity to continue the discussion with him with a focus on his rock albums. The new set brings up a lot of questions and we also dug a bit deeper into the individual albums and the collaborations with other musicians. You will also find out what Tony does on YouTube and what the future might bring ...


GNC: Let's start with what's to come - in our interview early last year we talked about the album re-issues and why the releases in 5.1 format stopped. Now you have announced a boxset that contains all rock albums. Can you please explain what's the story behind that? Why such a box set now instead of continuing with the 5.1 releases?

Tony: Well, the main reason is, that this boxset is what the record company wants. And I am very happy to have all my records out there. In terms of 5.1 - I think it's their point of view that this doesn't justify the time and resources like money for these albums and that it wouldn't really be worth it. And also the later records are much longer and the other reason is that the later albums sounded better anyway. One of the main reasons for doing A Curious Feeling and The Fugitive in 5.1 was to have the chance to remix the stuff in a proper way to get a decent stereo mix. So it was more about the new stereo mixes than anything else. And with Still and Strictly Inc - both albums were done by Nick Davis at the time and we are very happy with the way they sound. So there would not be much improvement if we were doing a new version. So in the end it was decided to put them out again and do a remaster to make them all sound a bit better. And of course A Chord Too Far is out already, but that was more like an introduction to these albums. And now you get the whole lot. Also, these days with streaming etc you will always have the chance to listen to individual tracks as well. They are all out then.


GNC: Miles Showell and Nick Davis did the Remasters at Abbey Road Studios. Have you been involved in this work?

Tony: Not really, the remastering is only a final stage thing, it's not a remix of any kind. Some of the earlier tracks were remixed, bits of Soundtracks and Bankstatement, plus The Fugitive and A Curious Feeling as a whole. So remastering just means getting it from tape onto disc or digital platform. It enhances the sound without really changing it.


GNC: There is a bonus disc with all your music videos in this set, which is nice to have. What do you think about these videos and why did you decide to release them as well?

Tony: Well the record company thought it would be nice to put them on there. Obviously they are all available on YouTube etc., so you can find them if you want them. Well, some are good, some are bad [laughs] and I am obviously not too fond of This Is Love, because it got me being the singer at the front and that's not so good, but most of the others are nice. They are quirky, they got some character. And they also show the people who sing the stuff, which is nice. So I was happy to have them included. They are not classics, obviously, but nice to have them on there as well.


Banks Vaults

GNC: The set doesn't include any further bonus material, like demos, alternative versions or unreleased tracks. Does it mean there was nothing in your archive?

Tony: We wanted to stick to just the records on this one, I mean I had some extra material on A Chord Too Far. I've got some stuff like a track that was recorded for Strictly Inc, but this was not really good, it's called It All Comes Back To You. And I have some other little bits and pieces, which have ended up elsewhere really, I suppose, so I kind of thought the relevant stuff is out there on A Chord Too Far. But we did include the two bonus tracks on The Fugitive, K2 and Sometime Never, and also Diamonds Aren't So Hard on Bankstatement. But these tracks are just as strong as what's on the record. So we were happy to put those on. But with Back To You I felt this was weaker so I didn't really see the point. Most of the material on the set is unheard by most people so I want to give them what I think is the best.


GNC: The Wicked Lady is also part of the set, which is really nice. What about The Shout? Ever considered to include this as well?

Tony: Well the main piece of music from The Shout is what ended up on A Curious Feeling, called From The Undertow. The version we did for the film was not radically different. The album version is actually better. There was no reason to put that on. The other piece we did for the Shout was a bit that Mike wrote. We also did a couple of alternative versions of the main theme. But that was nothing very substantial. That wasn't enough to make a record of that.


"I am a fan and I like my own stuff"


GNC: So now you have seven albums in one package - so what do you think about your work as a whole?

Tony: Well, I am a fan! I like my own stuff. And I am quite happy to say that. Some people would always say 'no I don't like that a lot', 'can't watch my own films' or whatever, but I am not like that. But there are flawed moments, good moments and bad moments. I am very proud of it as a body of work. Same with what I have done with Genesis. I feel there a lot of strong material in there. I think my solo albums are just as strong as the Genesis albums, it's just that they are much less heard of. But in terms of writing there are some of the best things I did on these albums. I am very happy with them.


GNC: Do you have some favorite solo tracks?

Tony: I always loved the whole of A Curious Feeling, that was one idea sustained throughout a whole record. It stands up like that. My favorite track, maybe slightly predictable, is An Island In The Darkness which is on Strictly Inc. It's long, got a lot of mood changes and it's like early Genesis. It has a good guitar in it and musically it is the most interesting one - it goes in lots of places. It's a long piece and I didn't even try to cut it short. It goes where it will. I quite like music that does that. And for everybody who likes early Genesis, it's out there, also on Spotify and everything. So you can revisit it. And people might by quite surprised by the kind of piece it is. It's not what they might expect. 


"My favorite track is An Island In The Darkness"


GNC: You did work a lot with other people on your solo records. How did these collaborations happen? Just by chance or did you have somebody in your mind and asked them to play on your record?

Tony: Some happened by chance. With Kim Beacon, I was looking for a singer for the album, and I thought he had a voice that could do it, I listened to some tapes and then he came to do it. The same happened with Alistair Gordon, whereas Jayney Klimek was suggested by Steve Hillage. And there is another person I really chose, which was Nik Kershaw, I rang him up myself. And I asked him if he was interested in doing something together and he said yes. I like his albums, it's great pop. They have a strong musical element. I particularly liked his record The Works, the track Cowboys and Indians. And I also liked the drumming on that track and album - which was Vinnie Colaiuta, who ended up being the drummer on Still as well. Fish had been suggested to me a number of times and I met him and having worked with him once I wanted to work with him again. Same with Jayney Klimek. So it's a bit of chance and a bit of plan.


"Jack Hues did the things like I would have done if I could do them that way"


GNC: You had nine vocalists on your records. Which one was the best or let's say, the most memorable one?

Tony: Oh, that's not fair really. Erm, well ... Nik Kershaw got a very distinctive voice. He sang very well, especially on Red Day On Blue Street. Toyah did also a great job on Lion Of Symmetry. But also that's one of the better tracks, which also makes a difference. I think when all is said and done my favorite one would be Jack Hues. He would do things a bit like I would have done if only I could do them that way. And his singing on something like An Island In The Darkness is wonderful. And it's also about getting that cheekiness into stuff like Charity Balls and Only Seventeen. He is a very versatile singer and also a very musical man. That was fun for me. But they were all good singers in a way.


GNC: You also had like eight drummers on your records. So apart from Phil Collins, Nir Z and Nick D'Virgilio you have at least worked with these eight drummers. Any favorite moments? How did you get in touch with them?

Tony: Vinnie I contacted directly: I was very lucky with drummers, I have worked with the best drummers in the world. Obviously Phil and Chester, but there was also Steve Gadd, who a lot of people would call their favorite drummer. Vinnie and also Tony Beard and Geoff Dugmore are highly rated drummers. John Robinson is also a great session drummer. Originally, before Strictly Inc, I tried to get Vinnie again, but he was on tour with Sting. So he couldn't do it. John was suggested to me and he's also a marvellous drummer. There are actually a lot of great drummers out there. I feel so lucky to have worked with so many and so good. They all have their own strength and make things work in their own way. So you always get a different character on a record. But that's with all musicians. One I was really keen to use was Pino Palladino on bass. He played in Paul Young's band when they opened for Genesis in 1987 and I listened to his bass playing a lot. And he became someone I wanted to use on my records. Some people are suggested by engineers, like Graham Broad was suggested by Nick as he had an idea how he would sound on a particular track. And in the end it was a piece where he probably played better than Vinnie would have played.


GNC: Speaking about the recording process - you also had band projects, like Strictly Inc and Bankstatement, did you record some of the stuff as a band or was it more a step-by-step recording?

Tony: With The Fugitive, I did a lot of the work at home on that one, took it to the studio and added things to it. Later on, particularly from Bankstatement on, we did the albums pretty much like the Genesis albums, so we had something to start with, like a drum machine, which was the basis for most of the tracks, and so we had something to play to. But we didn't do it as full band really. Half of the time we didn't even know who the singer would be when the track recordings started. This may not be a great thing to do, but that happens. Some stuff we did started off with a different singer and didn't work out, then we changed it again. I tend to write in a way that it normally suits a lot of voices. Probably with the exception of Jim Diamond, because, like Phil, he could sing so high. But not everybody has this kind of voice. It's a great piece for singers. And it's fun to work with different people, they all have different talents.


GNC: In some interviews you have mentioned that you were not really pleased with some track regarding the way they were recorded. Did you ever consider to re-record some of your tracks? Probably for a sampler albums or something like that?

Tony: In terms of the rock albums, I don't really want to go back to them and redo stuff. But of course one thing we wanted to do is remix the tracks, particularly the earlier stuff. So there are tracks on the box set which are remixes. I felt the original versions lacked a bit. We also had the same problem with some of the Genesis albums, like Duke, which we felt could sound better. But with the rest of my solo stuff - I am very happy with the way they sound really. But when it came to the Orchestral stuff later on, I felt there were two or three pieces which could have been done differently. But that's another story.


"I'm not writing, at the moment I am a bit dry of ideas"


Tony Banks 2018, by Emily BanksGNC: What are you doing these days? Are you writing new songs?

Tony: I've got nothing new, I am doing very little. I haven't really written much of significance in the last year or two, but I'm sure it will happen again. Probably that will go in the Orchestral direction, because I feel that's where I got the most winnage and gives me the bbiggest satisfaction. But I never rule out rock music and I love the sound of rhythm and drums, guitars and everything. But nothing is planned. I am a bit dry of ideas at the moment.


GNC: If you had the chance to have one of your tracks covered by another artist, which track would that be and which artist?

Tony: I'd like someone who's going to have a hit with it. Someone who's high profile, there are a lot of great singers out there. Adele would be fantastic, she's got a great voice, but she's not going to do it [laughs]. Most singers have something about them that makes their music worthwhile, but if they would be singing my songs, they would lack something, because these would be my songs. On the other hand, there are some great cover versions around - like Disturbed did a great version of Land Of Confusion [click here for a YouTube video]. And their cover version of The Sound Of Silence is fantastic, too I think [original by Simon & Garfunkel, click here to listen to the Disturbed version]. That works - you take the song and then change it quite a bit and get something else. So if someone wants to do that kind of thing, I would be very happy. But I never think about this really. I don't think it will happen, because the stuff was not that popular anyway.


"I really enjoy YouTube and I love Johnny Cash's version of Hurt"


GNC: The question also had the intention to find out what you are listening to these days ...

Tony: Actually, I really enjoy YouTube, you can go through bits and pieces quite easily. I love Jonny Cash's version of Hurt - I have listened to that a few times and it also got a brillant video. The song is good, but his version is a brillant rendition of the song. He injects something special into that. In terms of other stuff, I listen to a lot of classical music. And yes, I listen to old people. Sometimes even stuff from my childhood. There was a piece that my brother asked me to seek out so I tried to find it, it is called The Three Trees. I can't remember who did that and it also was a b-side only. So I checked YouTube and there it was. Even a video with the guy singing it. Completely wonderful. Took me back to my childhood. I do quite a bit of that, looking for songs I used to like. Yesterday Has Gone by Cupids Inspiration is a track that I really loved - and found it as well. It's great fun. In the car, I listen to what's on the radio. Usually I listen more to talk radio, but sometimes also a bit of rock music.


GNC: Have you considered to do a selection of live shows for this boxset?

Tony: Well no, you know - me and live shows ... I have not considered it. For doing stuff live - and maybe that's just an excuse, I always felt you need to have something like a hit to get on the bottom rung of the ladder. So a track that is known and you can build a set around it. I don't feel I ever had that. So I never did it. And playing live is not my happiest time. I like writing and recording music more. So these are the reasons I never did it. When I am backstage somewhere and see the other guys, I sometimes get the feeling for it but it's unlikely I will ever do that.


GNC: Any plans for this or next year? We actually saw Mike Rutherford join Phil Collins on stage doing Follow You Follow Me recently. Do you want to join them?

Tony [laughs]: I wouldn't mind joining them doing it, but you know, there are no Genesis plans, if that's what you were trying to ask. I saw both Phil and Mike on their never ending tours, but that was last year or the year before that. We talk about doing something together again occasionally, and you never know. It's not impossible that we might do something. We have no plans really. My main concentration is now that I get this boxset out, and probably also the classical ones I think. And I am nearly 70. There comes a point in life when you slow down a bit. But then Charlie Watts is nearly 80 and still playing. So anything is possible, but at the moment I am taking it a bit easier.


GNC: And you said you wanted to rerelease your classical albums again, like a boxset or something?

Tony: Well, NAXOS, who did the first two records are quite keen to see if they could get more out of FIVE. At the moment that's what they want. FIVE did spectacularly well in the first week, and nothing really after that. For me it's the best of my classical albums. There are some pieces I am very proud of. In the end you have to go for what really can happen. I was very fortunate - I had incredible success with Genesis and I was also able to do and release the classical albums. And for that I am very grateful.


GNC: Ok, we are through, thanks Tony for taking time to answer our questions.

Tony: Was really nice to talk to you again Christian - I'm sure we will talk again. Thanks!


Interview & Transcript: Christian Gerhardts
Tony Banks photo: Emily Banks 2018

The boxset Banks Vaults: The Albums 1979-1995 comes out July 19th and can be ordered at CherryRed or Amazon-UK. More info about the boxset can be found here.

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