Hushed, reserved, essentially English delight: that’s the gist of Anthony Phillips’ music. Mostly known for his role in the story of GENESIS, his first professional ensemble, this guitarist built a distinctive career – not as commercially successful as the path his Charterhouse were on, but one that brought Phillips the utmost respect of his peers. Prolific composer, Anthony’s discography is long, if not labyrinthine, yet stylistically diverse and offers a rewarding listening adventure… which one can embark on now, with the launch of the artist’s reissue programme and a 40-years-spanning anthology, the first port of call of our conversation.
– Anthony, how do you see the “Harvest Of The Heart” box set: as something new or an expansion of your old collection with the same title?
Oh, I think you can’t get away from the fact that most of the music has been released before, so from that point of new it’s not a new album. But because it is presented chronologically, it might feel quite different to a lot of people, and there are things on it which I’m sure people won’t know, because I don’t presume they will have all the albums – far from it. So I’m hoping that in buying it people would find things that they haven’t come across and like it, and they will also like the packaging, as it’s a proper entity. And also there are the unreleased tracks as well so, while it’s not a completely new CD obviously, hopefully there’ll be enough new material, in many different ways, for it to be worthwhile. The “Harvest Of The Heart” compilation was a single album many, many years ago, and we thought of having a continuity, really, and as it was a nice title before, why not to use it again: that was the thinking behind it – but there wasn’t supposed to be any great musical continuity between this and the previous one.
– It’s also the first title in your reissue programme. Which albums are you planning to re-release, how many, and what’s next after this box set?
[Esoteric Recordings] are releasing “The Geese And The Ghost” in 5.1 with some extra stuff on it and an extra track [“Only Your Love”] with Phil Collins as well, which is a B-side of “Silver Song”: they’re releasing that in February. And, to be honest, after that we don’t have a definite release schedule, but I’m hoping that most of the albums, most main albums, will be out within a year.
– In your case, “most of the albums” sounds like a very complicated thing!
Well, there’s a lot of albums, isn’t there? (Laughs.) They’re going to release them as they think fit. I don’t like albums not being available but you have to accept it with a new record company: they want to do things in their own time. But they will release all the main titles – there’s no doubt about that.
– The only other artist I can think of with so many records out is Rick Wakeman. Some may even say there’s a competition between the two of you.
I don’t know about that, really. There are artists with lots and lots of albums – I mean GENESIS have done lots over the years – and I don’t think that I’m actually in competition with Rick, who’s got a lot of fans, although there’s a great deal of crossover between them and there are similarities here and there in style. But it’s nice to be on a label with a number of established artists like that.
– My question wasn’t serious, but both you and Wakeman released albums called “1984” in June 1981, so there might have been a real competition.
Yeah, I know. That was really strange, that was really bizarre, and Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for him. But this kind of stuff does happen occasionally; I did a classical album last year with Andrew Skeet called “Seventh Heaven” and on the new release schedule I found that Tony Banks was releasing one [“Six: Pieces for Orchestra”] about a month before – I had absolutely no idea! I also didn’t know that GENESIS were doing a compilation album recently. So these things are all coincidences.
– You’ve done so much since leaving that band, and about half of your works are piano ones, but most of the people still refer to you as a former GENESIS guitarist. Don’t you find it awkward?
I suppose I accepted that. It’s an historical fact: GENESIS is a big name, and I was a guitarist with GENESIS. So it’s kind of shorthand, a kind of a shortcut, although it doesn’t definitely tell the whole story – I absolutely agree with you – only a part of that. If people obviously don’t know my music – you can’t force them to see it all, right? – there’s nothing I can do about that, isn’t there; but people who know it, wouldn’t limit it to GENESIS. There are those who know the catalogue, and those who don’t.
– But how do you see yourself: as a composer, a guitarist, a piano player? In which order?
It’s a good question. When I do television music, I see myself mostly as a composer; when I do my albums, I see myself as a kind of multi-instrumentalist covering a lot of guitar areas and a lot of keyboard areas, as I wouldn’t separate it all.
– And when you played on Peter Gabriel’s demos, was it thanks to your friendship or recognition of your talent as a keyboard player?
It certainly wasn’t ’cause of our friendship, although I did studied piano. In GENESIS, I could knock out the tune, I could write stuff, but I didn’t have any technique in terms of being able to interpret someone else’s music so, back then, I couldn’t compose what Peter wanted me to play. But later on, he knew that I’d studied it and he knew that I had a reasonable technique; also I think he knew that I would do what he asked without arguing, which was important. So it wasn’t only due to our friendship, as we remained good friends, but he felt that I would be a sympathetic and able person. But it was a very strange thing to be the keyboard player with Peter singing, and Phil [Collins] and Mike [Rutherford] as a rhythm section. (Laughs.) That was pretty bizarre, a very strange combination! And not forgetting that we had John Goodsall on guitar, of course.
– You said, “sympathetic”: how important is this quality when it comes to your work with other people?
I think you’ve got to be sympathetic to somebody else’s style; if you’re not you may as well not bother. I mean there has to be a complement, you get complementary opposites, obviously. If you’re too similar, you cancel each other out. You’ve got to be sympathetic or it won’t work.
– What was the most important part of your studying music: the discipline of it, the technique, or musical literacy?
Gosh! That’s hard to answer, really. It was a lot of different things; I wouldn’t say one was the most important. Raising my piano technique was important, as was learning to play classical guitar properly. I couldn’t play with my right hand in any kind of advanced way, so it meant I could play tracks like I’d never played before. Also, having the ability to orchestrate – or if somebody else was orchestrating for me, being able to talk their language: that’s also so important. Back in the GENESIS days, when we had an arranger, we didn’t know how to communicate with him in musical terms. I found some of the technical work difficult because I used to be in a pop group where I was writing stuff, and suddenly I was thrown into a very narrow – well, not narrow, but very set classical form, so I found studying some of that a little bit boring, actually. Obvious things, certain aspects with learning technique is boring but you need to understand the rules and not throw the book out the window. But I certainly benefited from it – I learned a lot.
– Most of your works have this English melancholy, or moodiness, about them. How much of that does reflect you as a person?
Like most of people, I have a very positive side and a side that’s quite reflective and quite nostalgic. I’m certainly not the person who feels very down all the time; some people’s music is always very down. It’s probably easier to write a really good song that’s poignant and sad rather than a happy-go-lucky tune about how it’s great to be alive. I think where musicians are lucky is when you have a some kind of difficulties in life – you have a broken heart or something – you’re able to enshrine it an a song, whereas for most people it’s just ghastly; they got no way of being able to express their feelings when they’re sad. We’re very lucky in that respect. But you won’t see me writing a song about happy times all the time. I don’t think any music is a reflection of someone’s melancholy or character; it’s easier to be inspired by things like that rather than a bright sunny day. As for the Englishness, I don’t know: it’s hard to judge that, isn’t it, because I was born here. So I can’t really judge how important it is – it’s difficult for me to see what is an innate Englishness that other people see in [my music]. I don’t try to be English, it’s just natural: I was born that way, I can’t help it! (Laughs.) A lot of my music are from overseas composers, there’s no doubt about that. I was very influenced by Debussy and Ravel and numerous others not from England. But yeah, you’re right: you grow up with Englishness in your bones. Later studies helped; Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Walton and these people; there’s an element in there that enshrines music in old English tradition that goes right back into the heart of our tradition. And you can’t help but to be a product of that.
– Still, many artists, such as THE BEATLES, embraced the American, rhythm-and-blues way, while you retained this originality.
Yeah! It’s funny because I’ve never been any kind of anti-American, and I used to love American bands. But maybe I was never as influenced by them, so you’re probably right, as I was by English composers. I love some of the American composers, like Charles Ives, but they hadn’t probably influenced my music in the same way that some English composers had.
– Still, on “Sides” you have a song called “I Want Your Love” that, to me, sounds like an homage to Motown.
Really? How interesting! I never thought of that! Certainly, when we were starting out with GENESIS, we were all teens, but we loved THE FOUR TOPS, Otis Redding and a lot of Motown stuff: it was fantastic! Probably, not that I personally was into that as much as other stuff… Having been brought up in the Sixties, with this incredible outpouring of music from Liverpool, from Manchester, from London and from all over America, [we had] so many influences! So I suppose you’re right: certain songs are bound to have an influence that is either overt or more subtle, but I’ve never thought about being influenced by Motown!
– On the same album is “Holy Deadlock” which, in my opinion, is a distant relative of 10CC’s “Dreadlock Holiday.”
Ah, that’s interesting. Yeah, that’s interesting. That was written with Martin Hall, actually, who was very cynical about his marriage, and it has a reggae feel to it.
– So how many people do see the humorous side of you?
Oh Gosh! I don’t know, really. There’s not a lot of humor in my music – you’re quite right – I did quirky songs back in those days, but I don’t really think there’s that much quirky music now: I probably got a bit more serious over the years.
– But then there’s "Private Parts & Pieces" with “private parts” having some different connotation.
Yeah, I think that there’s always been humor in the titles, and in the presentation: that was always a clever fun – rather deliberate, actually. And I’ve always had fun with the titles, you know, being quite bizarre, like “Tibetan Yak-Music” and stuff like that. So that’s more in the whimsical tradition of Erik Satie having fun with his titles, not that the music itself is that witty.
– You mean his “Gymnopédies”?
– Talking about “Private Parts & Pieces”… Do you ever throw anything away?
Oh yeah. “Private Parts & Pieces” over the years have been a mixture sometimes, like a scrapbook album, rather than highly homogenous concept pieces. Sure, there are things that I recorded which were too rough to go on, although they might have a lovely feel but their technical quality is too bad. There’s kind of borderline, really, so yes, there’s definitely has been stuff that I chucked – there has to be integrity.
– These collections are total opposites of your suites. So what do you like more: shorter things or something more conceptual?
Well, you have to remember that the “Private Parts & Pieces” albums had started because in those days I was, like a lot of artists, being forced into trying to be as commercial as possible. I don’t mean that before that I was trying to be un-commercial and not to sell out; of course, I was – I loved “The Geese And The Ghost.” But by the time “The Geese And The Ghost” came out, the wind was changing and punk was upon us and disco, and long instrumental albums were not fashionable anymore. You have to recall that in those days, if you wanted to make a record you had to do what the record company said, because you had to get into the recording studio – very few people had studios of their own – and the equipment was quite expensive. So I had to toe the line and I found myself doing these songs [that were] probably a little bit more too commercial than I like, and as a foil to that, as a counterbalance to that I was able very luckily to get a release for some gentle acoustic guitar music which was sort of homespun, a complete contrast to the bright gleaming studio quality with a good feel to it. So that’s how it started; the first “Private Parts & Pieces” was just called “Private Parts & Pieces” because that’s what it was, and I was very lucky to get it out when other people weren’t getting a chance to get that kind of music released. And it was only after that, when the commercial releases had dried out, that I carried on the series – for about six or seven years that was really all I was able to release. And every time I was trying to do a commercial album it wasn’t terribly successful, so I ended up falling back on just on the “Private Parts & Pieces” series. Things changed when new-age came along, and I was able then to crank it up a bit and do "Slow Dance". So I don’t think really there was a question of preferring to do one or the other; it was forced upon me for a long time just to do very simple albums because of the budget, and I suppose the truth is that I enjoy doing both of them. I mean “Private Parts & Pieces” is probably simpler in that you ought to just put together a collection of pieces you’ve already recorded, whereas to make a commercial album is going to be much bigger enterprise, it’s going to be more complex. But both have their job really, it’s just that a full-scale album I would say would be more complex.
– But from strictly creative point of view, isn’t it more rewarding to do a concept album and to fully work on all the ideas that go with it?
I think so, yes. Something like “Slow Dance” feels a lot more… it was a much broader canvas. I’m prouder of that, it probably has a greater emotional pull. So yes, formally speaking I found the bigger albums when they worked more rewarding, and some that didn’t work more distracting.
– “Slow Dance” is one of my most favorite albums of yours, it’s a very mature work.
It came after a long period of not being able to do a big album, as I was saying, after all the small-scale “Private Parts And Pieces” albums through the Eighties. But by the time I had a chance to do it, I had a lot of material, and I was obviously very frustrated, so I was very inspired to do it. It didn’t take a long time, though it was difficult, but I was inspired because I felt like I’d been starting over with that kind of work.
– Another special album for you is “Tarka.” But what was so special about it that you kept returning to this record until you were finally able to put it out?
Well, that was a major work and, because of time spent on it, we felt pretty emotional about it. But again, It fell foul of the late Seventies return to basics, if you like, when all the music had been poppy, all this, all the rest of it, and it really wasn’t at all fashionable – far from it. As anything which had a classical edge, people used to laugh at that, so in England where it was very, very narrow; it was a sort of monotheistic system, it was silly to see all those people starting doing a kind of rebellion, fourteen-fifteen-year-old music, it was silly but there it was. So “Tarka” slept for many years, but [producer] Simon Heyworth championed it – he wouldn’t let it go, he was determined. And when the new-age boom came along, things started opening up again for instrumental music: that was when we came back to it and were able to finish it. It still felt not perfect, and we weren’t able to alter some of the things that were slightly wrong early on, but we made a reasonable job of it.
– “Invisible Men” was quite commercial but you weaved folk elements into songs like “The Women Were Watching” on it. So you wanted to remain faithful to your core values while trying to be sellable?
I hope it comes across like that. At the time I was under enormous pressure to be commercial, because I’d just bought my first house at the age of 29 and I had mortgage and all the rest of it, and I stretched myself financially to get there. So there was a big pressure upon me to come up with something more commercial. But I felt that some of it was a bit more fun to start with, entertaining and interesting. “The Women Were Watching” was quite dramatic and lyrically profound, to deal with thoughts on the war, and that was so difficult. But then, some of the other songs were more fluffy ones and quite superficial. And I did find it quite difficult to sustain interest in those. But still, it didn’t sound like a sell-out.
– How did “Invisible Men” become a solo album? It was planned as a duo record, right?
I did it with a friend of mine called Richard Scott but, over here, it came out as the Anthony Phillips album, but a lot of promotion took place for THE ANTHONY PHILLIPS BAND, and we had a photograph with Richard and my friend Joji Hirota who played percussion. But by the time it came out in the States that was rather faded, it slotted back into being a solo album of mine, although in many aspects it should have been Anthony Phillips and Richard Scott – some respect. But that’s another story.
– But was there ever THE ANTHONY PHILLIPS BAND?
No, no, it was more just a kind of selling gimmick.
– Talking about gimmicks… In the credits on some of your albums you introduced your alter egos such as Vic Stench and The Vicar. Was it because you were concerned about playing other instruments, rather than guitar, or just a simple joke?
Oh, that was a joke, yeah. One of the GENESIS roadies called me The Vicar, so that was the reason why we did that joke. But Vic Stench was a deliberate piss-taking, if you like, of some of the names of people who had that kind of vitriol towards people like myself or GENESIS and all the others. I was having cockiness as we say at some of the fun people in the record industry at the time, so that was a general naughtiness
No, it wasn’t from my time with GENESIS, it was later, in 1977-78; it was one of the GENESIS roadies called Geoff Banks who used to come and live here at my house, that kind of thing.
– If we returned to GENESIS and the puns… How come you weren’t credited on “Nursery Crymes” if you’d submitted ideas for that album?
Oh, it’s a long story, really. I hadn’t had so much contact with the band and I think, probably, most of them didn’t realize that I actually had written not a lot but a couple of bits. It didn’t worry me too much, to be honest, because it wasn’t a colossal amount of input, and they went around touring and, because [of that], they were selling more records, so I was making money from “Trespass.” I kind of thought that I wasn’t going to rock the boat, if you like; I never felt like making much of a fuss about it. At that time I was at home studying in the peace of English countryside, and if they hadn’t been on the road touring the stuff, then I wouldn’t have made any money at all.
– Can you be credited, then, with discovering Phil Collins as a singer?
No, I don’t think I can, actually, because he was already doing some really good backing vocals for the group. Mike used him on “More Fool Me,” didn’t he, which I think they recorded in 1973, for “Selling England [By The Pound]”; it’s around the same time we did “Silver Song” which never came out, unfortunately. So I don’t think I was the one that discovered him, but Mike and I were probably the ones who tried solo stuff with him before he did any solo stuff later.
– How important are all these collaborations to you? I mean not only recording joint albums but also having two reeds players – John Hackett and Jack Lancaster on “The Geese And The Ghost” or, on “The Sides,” three percussionists: Frank Ricotti, Ray Cooper and Morris Pert… How important it is to be backed by such great musicians?
It varied in terms of how important it was on the track. That’s not doing anybody down, but there’ve always been quite simple parts that somebody put on the track. I actually wasn’t there when Ray Cooper did the tambourine on whatever it was – I was teaching guitar; I had to go and teach one day a week – I’m sure he did it better than anybody else could, but it wasn’t “make or break” the track. But Morris came in and listened “1984” from beginning to end and just added percussion as we went right through, and some of what he added was really important, it was brilliant. And the same thing with Frank on “Slow Dance”: I literally played it to him section by section, and he came up with some wonderful percussion parts, but we have a lot more time for that, like a whole day. So you can’t make a hard-and-fast rule that all the parts have always been seminal; some of them were more simple and basic. But there’s a lot of different soloists coming in and coming out on “The Geese And The Ghost” – there were some terrific contributions, and there was my brother [Rob] was playing oboe with John Hackett. That was very exciting for me because I’d not long learnt how to score, so I was kind of on the edge of my seat as well because I was writing these parts and it was a new area to me – I wasn’t really quite sure what I was doing. I’d done all the technical work – I knew how to write it down – but it’s another thing to imagine something in your head: is it going to work for flute and oboe, and, particularly, is it going to work alongside acoustic guitars? Some of what we were doing was quite different – obviously, there were bands that were using flute with guitar and all the rest of it, like TRAFFIC – but our approach here was very homogeneous, bringing together acoustic guitars with quite a lot of classical instruments, almost like a mixed ensemble. So it was kind of groundbreaking, but a great fun, trying out some combinations: on “Henry,” there are four electric guitars playing in unison with cor anglais – that’s unusual. (Laughs.) And I love trying out the different timbres between all the different instruments and guitars.
– Is that why also experimented with electronics?
Yes. Of course, early on, the electronics available around the time of “The Geese And The Ghost” were limited, although we did actually name the album after two electronic sounds that I wrote on ARP Pro Soloist: there was a sort of cor anglais motif which we put into repeat echo, and that was the sound we likened to a flight of geese; and there was another, a whistle I think, that was kind of ghostly – hence, we ended up calling it “The Geese And The Ghost.” But the technology around then was pretty primitive, and for a lot of the sustained sounds we were using things like the Hammond organ and the harmonium… But later on, by the time we got to “Sides,” I’d got Polymoog and ARP 2600; and certainly, by “1984” it was very technical, very synth.
– Looks like the geese theme was continued when you started to work with Andy Latimer… I mean CAMEL had a “Snow Goose” album.
That was a funny thing, actually, because I moved to London and he lived very close. We tried a lot of stuff together, but I think that he was very experimenting and try to get away from some of the original CAMEL style working with different people, but he quickly realized that he couldn’t move too far away from it. So we ended up by writing very little together [“End Peace” on 1982’s “Single Factor”], and I being mainly a session guitarist on the album – but I very much enjoyed it. “The Geese And The Ghost” had no reference at all to “The Snow Goose”; I didn’t even know it at the time – all that I knew was the [Paul Gallico] book.
– Another animal of interest is a squirrel on the cover of your "Wise After The Event".
(Laughs.) Yes. That was a bit of a strange one, really. I’d stupidly once shot a squirrel with an arrow and after that had a terrible sort of guilt about it, so I wrote the song. I wasn’t sure if I killed it outright, you see, so that was my one experience with shooting, and I became very anti after that. But [sleeve designer] Peter Cross didn’t seem disturbed, and it became a very easy character to reproduce. Peter, obviously, had a very humorous touch, he was always combining animals with technological things and strange clothing. If you remember, we’ve got the geese with a kind of medieval warfare kit on on [a back cover of] “The Geese And The Ghost.”
– And that squirrel in boots fled from the album onto a single, right?
It was because we’d run out of material, and “Squirrel” ended up by being on a B-side of the [“We’re All As We Lie”] single. Same things happened with “Souvenir” on “Sides.” But it was a little bit complicated with “Squirrel” that was supposed to be on the album and then didn’t make any sense because everybody thought, “Why is there a squirrel on the cover?” It didn’t matter too much as it was a great image.
– Then you started to drift away from all those interesting covers and put something more serious images on. Was it because you started to think of yourself as a more serious musician?
To be honest, it was also the fact that I couldn’t afford Peter, to commission him to do a work that took two or three months and that had all his humor and ingenuity. Remember that those albums had represented a record advance, but things became very practical in the Eighties, when I didn’t have a lot of money, and so all the albums were on a small scale, and the artwork just fitted in. I don’t think it had anything to do with being more serious; it was simply that everything had to be done more simply. And therefore, Peter did do the cover for [1982’s “Private Parts & Pieces 3”] “Antiques” – and there’s some humor in that as well, but that’s not the humor on the grand scale. I wasn’t able to use him on that grand scale yet.
– I’d say that the artwork for “Private Parts & Pieces VIII: New England” was quite whimsical as well, and it was out in the early Nineties.
Yes, that’s true. That was whimsical. That was back to Peter again. But again, he was doing that in a quite quicker technique; I couldn’t book him for long. But you’re absolutely right: I think with him, it’s always humor, always pastoral and there’s always subtlety and beauty.
– But the “New England” album per se: was it your attempt of crossing over to America or just a pun on Old England?
No. I can’t remember how… I think both of us had been reading about the American War of Independence, and I’d been to New England a few times and loved being up in New York State, where everything is bigger and more colorful. I was in Woodstock in ’66, staying with a friend of mine, Terence, about two or three years before the Big Thing. (Laughs.) So [the album] wasn’t really reflecting England so much.
– There was one more crossover for you: INTERGALACTIC TOURING BAND. You recorded “Reaching Out” with Annie Haslam. How did that come about?
That was a strange one, too. That was a big concept album, with lots of people playing on it. I was doing the “Geese And The Ghost” promotion tour at the time, and they just asked me if I could go down and add some twelve-string: it was as simple as that. It was one of those things where a lot of guest musicians turned up, and I’m not sure they really understood quite what they were doing. I think Meat Loaf came to the studio but I didn’t meet anybody that was involved with the album. But they gave me an enjoyable track.
– There’s a lot of similar projects now. Do you receive invitations to take part in something like this?
I haven’t had any invitations recently to take part in anything like that, anything major, but there’s always younger musicians who would like me to play on their stuff.
– Speaking of younger musicians… You worked with Iva Twydell from AFTER THE FIRE.
Yes. That was a long time ago! Good Lord! I can barely remember that. I was writing with [ATF bassist] Nick Battle, and Iva was a friend of his, and we sort of produced it here with Richard Scott just helping them out.
– Is there any musician, then, who you’d like to play with?
Oh, Gosh! Thousands of ’em! But the musician I’d like to work with the most – and I always say this – is probably Mike Rutherford again, although I wouldn’t want to do the sort of the MIKE AND THE MECHANICS material, as much as I respect that, because it’s not really my kind of thing. But if he wanted to go back and do progressive stuff, I’d love to do that. And there’s a number of well-known musicians that I’d like to have a chance to play with, like Sting or Kate Bush. There’s also people within my own field: Steve Hackett asked me to play a twelve-string for him before, and that was lovely; if Andy Latimer ever wanted me to do something again, that would be great as well. So yeah, there’s still a lot of people I’d love working with.
– I’m going to talk to Steve in two days.
Do say, “Hi!” from me. I was supposed to see him a little while ago but, unfortunately, I was ill so I had to cancel.
– Where did you two first meet?
I first met Steve, obviously, quite soon after he joined [GENESIS] – I say, “obviously,” because I used to go and watch their gigs early on, when they were quite small; when they got very big, I found it too overwhelming. But I didn’t get to know him at all well until the last two or three years, and in the last two or three years we’ve become very good friends. There’s a group of us that get together quite often for supper and to shoot the card as we say. We’ve had an interesting time comparing our experiences in the group as guitarist, which has been illuminating for both of us.
– Is there a possibility of a joint album?
(Reluctantly.) We talked about it… My own feeling is that, again, we’re maybe too similar in some respects and we might cancel each other out. I have another fear as well, which he knows about: he’s a lovely guy, and I’m very fond of he and Jo (Steve’s wife. – DME), and I wouldn’t want to risk our friendship by a possible collaboration that might not work because, when you work with people, there’s always disagreement, there’s always some tension. You can’t escape it when you’re co-composing. People have their own style, they have their own way – one is not right and one is not wrong – and I would be nervous about it, I would hate anything that might impinge on our relationship. So that’s why I’m wary of it I think.
– But let me loop back to the beginning of our conversation when we talked about being sympathetic to other people.
Yes, but it’s not only being sympathetic, it’s also the process of co-composing. After years of mainly doing the writing myself – although there have been collaborations here and there – I’m not sure that I would find it that easy, that I would particularly like their idea, or they would like your idea. (Laughs.) If we do a whole album together, it’s going to put you under the microscope in terms of how you get on. I’m probably being too cautious, I know. But the other drawback is, if I wouldn’t tour it, this might be difficult for Steve.
– So what’s next for you? Will the reissue programme give you some time off to prepare something new?
You have to understand that I make the majority of my living from doing television music. I’d do an album but it isn’t enormously financially rewarding and, in the past, I’ve used my television music to fund my records. So I have a difficult decision to make in 2015 because people are saying, “Please, do a solo album,” and I’m thinking, “Can I afford to be away from my main source of income for five, six or seven months?” So what I’m going to do is I’m actually going to run the two in parallel, hand in hand – I’m going to try and write some songs and just see if, at the end of a period of time, I’ve got anything that could add up to an album, but it won’t be quick because I’ll be doing both at the same time.
– Given that writing music for television requires a lot of imagination, would it be possible for you to develop these ideas into songs?
Well, that’s possible. There’s a definite crossover, and it happens the other way sometimes as well, which is I use my albums’ stuff as television music. But at this stage, I would keep the two quite separate because they are specific projects they want stuff for. There are song ideas, but I haven’t done any songs for ages, I’m not enormously confident and I just need to spend a lot of time to see what I’ve got, not putting myself under any pressure. If, after two or three months, people will think that they like it, I would definitely have to collaborate – there’s no question about that – because I can never finish all the lyrics, and I will be looking for a top-class singer. So there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge but I would really try and do another solo album. And I’d like to do another one, like “Slow Dance,” in that sort of genre.