Shortly before a virus took control of the planet, the big musical buzz for progressive rock fans was the announcement that legendary bassist Mike Rutherford would join Tony Banks (keyboards) and Phil Collins (vocals) in a reform of their old group. , Genesis.
For those of us of a certain vintage, it’s no surprise that the tour, now postponed for obvious reasons, sold out in record time, forcing the trio to add more dates.
For those too young to remember, Genesis was one of the greatest live touring shows in the world in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. Back then, they could sell a tour. of stadium in the United States in less time than it took to make a cup of tea, such was their pulling power.
Since 1985, Rutherford has also been the captain at the helm of Mike & The Mechanics, an ever-growing group that has produced their own significant catalog. We caught up with Mike a while ago to discuss his early influences …
âI’ve always tried to be melodic,â he explains, âbut if you hear those early songs now, you can see I’m doing too much, with too many notes. We were all trying to find our niche back then, but the older you get, the more you learn to play what’s right for the song. It is a learning process when it is applicable and when it is not.
âI was looking for the greats back then like Jack Bruce, who had a unique sound and was a very melodic player. The McCartneys of this world are always great, because they are musical bassists, and you have players like Pino Palladino, who has to be one of the most amazing players ever – a lovely guy and the most learner. fast that I have ever known.
“Play her a song twice and she’s there.” I’m walking around a room, and he already has it downstairs. The prog-rock scene of the early 1970s was a breeding ground for ideas and sounds.
Did Rutherford keep an eye on what his competitors were doing? âI never really knew much about Rush, for example,â he says. âI really don’t know much about their material, and I should investigate it someday. I was very aware of Yes, however: I always thought Chris Squire was an amazing bass player.
âI went to see them years ago and left thinking how different they were to us, in a beautiful way. They were all virtuoso players, whereas we were more songwriters, and that was okay.
He adds: âThe pedals play an important role in the way I write. I can be sitting in my home studio writing with the bass pedals in front of me and playing guitar with a MIDI mic to create a string sound to go along with me. The bass pedals make you play unusual notes, once the chords are down.
“You play weird notes that you might not otherwise do, so they play a big part in what I do and how I write.” Such was the scale of Genesis’ global escapades that Rutherford often had prototypes sent to him for use on the road and in the studio.
As a result, the band were among the early adopters of new technologies such as Trace Elliot amplification, Status instruments, and Steinberger guitars and basses.
âBack then,â he recalls, âI thought of Trace Elliot as ‘the 4×10 sound’. It was a great way to focus the sound and pump a bit more, and for a long time I loved using their gear. It slowed down in the 90s as the company and the speed changed, but when it first appeared it was awesome – a real step forward. Back when I was using a double neck, the treble mic went through a column of speakers, and the bass mic went through its own speakers.
Rumor has it that Rutherford was also responsible for creating the bigger Steinberger bass body – any truth to that?
“Basically I did [Genesisâs 1986 album] Invisible key and the corresponding tour with Steinberger guitars. I kept saying, “It’s so small, can I have a bigger one?” I asked them to build a bass with more body on it, but nothing happened, so I took some cardboard and drew a shape and got [luthier] Roger Giffen to build me one, which sounded pretty good.
âSteinberger then fiddled with it and asked if they could copy it. They called it the M1, and that’s how it turned out, although of course I didn’t receive any design royalties! It has never looked so good, as it had a solid wood body, whereas the original base guitar was just a well-crafted piece of graphite.
âThe original bass was the same, and I loved it; the sound was so small and precise, but on albums it sounded huge and had real character. You can hear it on [1983 album] Genesis and Invisible key, but it sounded good because that’s what it is, a graphite body and neck – there’s nothing in there.
âLater someone built me ââa streamlined body version with a gap in the middle for me to insert the original Steinberger in, but I had to find a way to tie it up, so all the resonance came from the graphite body part. The original guitar and bass sounded so good because they were, to a certain extent, quite crass.
Needless to say, the vaults of Rutherford are home to a few gems, amassed over the decades.
âI don’t tend to look at new instruments these days: for years all of my instruments were in cases in a barn, so they never came out, really. I now have a long wall at the house where they all hang up so I can go and pick one up when the whim takes hold of me.
âWe had a session a while ago and we flew right after, so we rented gear instead of taking our gear. They provided a relic of Mexican Fender Jazz, and I played it on a guitar amp: it sounded great, very light too. I liked it. I often record bass through a guitar amplifier, as bass amps can sometimes pump too much into the sound. ”
He continues, âFor the past eight years I’ve been using Ampeg on stage, and no matter where we are these amps tend to sound the same, so I have a certain consistency. I used to have an Alembic Series II, which I used for a tour, but I don’t know where it went … it just disappeared. It tends to happen over the years. I had a white Gibson SG and it is also gone.
The mechanics require a similar setup to Genesis when it comes to the bass playing department – a multi-faceted bassist / guitarist who can perform both roles.
âI still play bass on several songs, but we share it,â he explains. âI’m looking for a guitarist who can play rhythm, lead and bass. It’s kind of like years ago when we got Daryl Stuermer on the Genesis tours. The guy before Daryl joined was Alphonso Johnson, albeit briefly, and it took Daryl seven or eight years to really âgetâ the bass. I think he always figured out how to play the right role for the song.
âI’ve always been half and half as a guitarist and bassist. Even when Steve Hackett was the lead guitarist in Genesis, sometimes I would play guitar and cover the bass part on pedals, certainly the rhythm parts.
âThe problem with bass is that it’s quite difficult to play alone as a solo instrument, but it comes to life when you perform live and on record as a member of a band. I always put the drum machine part first, followed by some guitar parts – but when the bass part kicks in, if you do it right, it can give the song a huge boost.
Many of these Genesis basslines are revered to this day. Did he know his band was creating future classics?
âNo, you never are – when you do, you don’t think how it will be thought in years to come. In a way, I covered a lot of ground with the double neck instrument and bass pedals – they gave the band some extra sound. Notice, we were at the soundcheck the other day, and totally out of the blue I played the bassline for The lamb lies down on Broadway. It has a bit of character, and I was like, “This is actually quite good” … “