PHIL COLLINS - The Return of the Hit Supplier

26. October 2016

Phil Collins

PHIL COLLINS - The Return of the Hit Supplier

The start of the Remaster series of his solo work, "Take A Look At Me Now", brought Phil Collins back into the public consciousness. The reason for his absence from the media, apart from health problems (hearing loss in the left ear, numbness in the hands due to problems with the spine, and finally alcohol abuse) and his withdrawal into private life, was probably also the image that the media had drawn of him, which he saw as skewed. Reason enough to ask him questions about his life, infamous Twitter rumours and his future.

eclipsed: 45 songs in the deluxe edition and 33 on the double CD are a lot of wood. With such an extensive collection as "The Singles" it was certainly not difficult to choose the tracks. What was it like for you to present yourself as a hit supplier again?

Phil Collins: The idea was to put together all the singles that were hits, but also all the ones that weren't hits. Because among those who didn't become a hit are some of my personal favorites. Many people involuntarily think that there must be some kind of formula behind it. When I hear or read something like that, I have to say it's so far from the truth. I write albums. So a collection of songs, but not a collection of singles. The idea behind it is to make a good album that reflects what I do. Only after that comes the record company and says: Let's decouple this or that song as a single for the radio. I've known it that way since I grew up with music. People hear it, and when they buy it, it's just a little luck. Now when I hear these things in one piece, even I'm impressed. What I'm saying is these pieces weren't written as hits. But, of course, it's wonderful for a songwriter when people like what you write. Well, that's just the way it is.

eclipsed: However, there were also songs that were simply played to death. Are there Phil Collins songs that even you can't hear anymore?

Collins: Hm, yeah. A song like "Against All Odds", like "You Can't Hurry Love", like "Sussudio" - if you would play these songs to me in a studio, I probably wouldn't listen to them to the end. I've just heard them so many times. On the other hand, you forget how good or bad something is. How good something sounds because you've played it so many times yourself. If you hear it again sometime, it may sound better or worse than expected. So from some of the songs I played live every night, I may be a little bored. Others I still like very much today. I'll give you two: "Can't Turn Back The Years" from the album "Both Sides" and "Wake Up Call" from "Testify". It would have been nice if these songs had been perceived more strongly.

eclipsed: You've suffered quite unfair criticism in your career and some fans have identified you as the one who has Genesis on his conscience. But your image as "Mr. Uncool" has changed in recent years. Can you say that time has healed all wounds?

Collins: Sure, it's nothing important. People are starving all over the world, and then all the terrorism... What people think about me doesn't really matter. You know what I mean. But yes, I was a little tired of all that. I did the final farewell tour. I've had enough, even though the tour was fantastic. I had two little children and wanted to be a father, come what may. I wanted them to be able to say later: "I really knew my father" instead of "he was always gone". That's why I retired. And I think the time I was away was long enough for me to be happy. Then the record company came up to me with the plan to re-release my records. I said first of all that I don't like this repackaging and remarketing so much. But if we find a way to live with it, I'll do it. So I came up with the idea of photographing all the covers again and so on. So because I've been away so long and it's all been repackaged, it's given people, mostly critics, the opportunity to reevaluate it. Before, I was always there, always right in front of you. From the seventies to the nineties. I got annoying. When I look back myself, even I get angry. Man, I never stopped! No wonder critics thought bad things of me. I had to withdraw to get some space as a person again and of course to raise my children. Now people are saying, "Oh, that's not as bad as I remembered, there's some good stuff there. That's positive, and I'm grateful for it. And some modern artists like Adele, Beyoncé or Kanye West say nice things. That's great, isn't it? It's nice when people think about you differently.

eclipsed: Peter Gabriel advised you not to retire. You haven't had such a good time in your life lately. How does it feel to be back now?

Collins: I'm not quite back yet, just a little bit. Yes, I remember Peter calling me ten years ago and warning me. That it would be dangerous to retire. But every person's life is different. I wasn't in a good mood back then. It's hard to explain. I have five children between eleven and forty-four. I wasn't living with any of them then. That was terrible. So I finally wanted to be the father of my two youngest. Before, I never had a chance to do that. And now I'm living with them and I'm very, very happy, I'm a part of their lives. So my story was different from Peter's. I was grateful for his advice, but my life is different and so I took early retirement. My eldest daughter Joely [the actress and producer is the child of Collins' first wife Andrea Bertorelli and was adopted by him; note] agreed with him at the time that I should not stop doing something I had done all my life. I remember that very well. So now I'm slowly gliding back there. Nicholas, my 15-year-old, plays drums with me.

eclipsed: Have you been able to swing the drumsticks again yourself?

Collins: Well, I have a drum set in my garage. I have to sit down and practice again. Right now, I'm recovering from a back surgery. My right foot is still completely deaf. I have to go by the stick right now. I had problems with my arm before. I have to practice first. At the moment I'm still thinking about what I'll do next, but I hope I can play something again in the future.

eclipsed: What are your plans? Are you coming back on tour?

Collins: Now the singles collection, in October my autobiography will be published. Writing it was a lot of fun, it is fresh and I am very satisfied with the result.

eclipsed: The title's Not Dead Yet. Are you alluding to the Twitter and Facebook rumors about your death that are still circulating on the net?

Collins: (obviously annoyed by the topic) Yes, there was a report a few years ago that I had died in a car accident. My mother, my brother, my sister, they all panicked, and then it was just bullshit! Walter, I'll tell you what, social networking sucks! I have a Facebook account, but I have nothing to do with it myself. My office will take care of it. I don't want anything to do with this. Yeah, "Not Dead Yet," 'cause I got enough things to do. This year we've lost a lot of great artists: Bowie, Prince, Maurice White, Lemmy. That was a bad year for rock music. But my book has nothing to do with it. It's interesting reading, you should do it sometime.

eclipsed: If you compare your book with the life memories of your band colleague Mike Rutherford - how much Genesis is in it for you?

Collins: I read Mike's book and really enjoyed it. I knew his dad very well, he was a wonderful man, and of course I know Mike inside out. My book is different, of course, because it doesn't build on my father's diary like Mike's. I was so active outside of Genesis and even outside of my own solo career that there was a lot to deal with. From my youth in the early sixties, where I saw historical acts in clubs, to Live Aid, George Harrison and so on. It's all in there.

eclipsed: How about a new studio album?

Collins: It's too early to say anything. Now it's about my book. I haven't written new songs in a long time because I took care of my family. Then the Reissues. The time will come when I will have no more excuses and start writing again. Then we'll see.

eclipsed: Finally, the obligatory question: Is there anything new on the subject of Genesis reunion?

Collins: No, no. Walter, now you've given away your last question. (laughs)

* * * Interview: Walter Sehrer