Mama, the UK’s ‘all era’ Genesis tribute band is delighted to share this interview with our fans and fellow Genesis fans!
Note: Previously available on our Exclusive Content page!
John Wilkinson: Yeah fine thanks.
MW: So, what made you decide to start a Genesis tribute band?
JW: Well most people will know that John Comish and I were in a very successful Phil Collins and Genesis tribute band called Face Value. When that came to an end we decided to carry on with the Genesis songs but give this new band a more Genesis all era feel. We wanted to move away from the Phil solo material, although we still play In The Air Tonight. We then started rehearsals with James Cooper our drummer and a guitarist and bassist, Chris and Mark, and for the first few gigs that was the line up. Mark Comish, who is John’s brother joined soon after Chris decided to leave the band in June 2012 and we got Dave Perry our bassist in April this year.
MW: I take it you all get on well with each other then?
JW: Yeah I think now we have a line up which I am hopeful will last years. We are all united in trying to make Mama the best Genesis tribute band it can be. Nice to have that sense of team spirit in any band.
MW: So you can see Mama carrying on for years then?
JW: Yeah hope we can last at least as long as Face Value did as we all really love doing this. My enthusiasm for singing Genesis songs will never diminish so I can see myself doing this for as long as I am able to.
MW: What is your favourite song to play live?
JW: All of them. [laughs] As a Genesis fan since I was 14 you can imagine what it is like for me being in a band playing their music. With most bands you are lucky if you like sixty percent of the songs you play. With Mama I like one hundred percent of the songs we play. Very lucky to be in that situation.
MW: You must be able to pick one?
JW: It’s difficult it really is. If pushed I will say my favourite song Mama perform is the In The Cage Medley as it showcases the whole band and was a tour-de-force when Genesis themselves played it, but I do love The Carpet Crawlers, Ripples, Spectral Mornings and Mama also. The rest of the guys won’t agree with me of course. What was I saying about team spirit again? [laughs]
MW: And you do play some ex Genesis members solo songs then?
JW: Yeah, we play a couple or three. We chose them very carefully to showcase different aspects of the band. Spectral Mornings is very much guitar driven and In The Air Tonight is a showcase for drums and vocals. Solsbury Hill is just a blast to play and always goes down very well.
JW: The feedback has been great. I am always surprised at just how passionate and knowledgeable Genesis fans are about the music and to get people telling us we’re doing these songs justice is always very rewarding. We do get the occasional shout out for Supper’s Ready or The Lamb but we ignore them. [laughs] Seriously we are trying to pick songs that we enjoy playing and that we think the fans will enjoy. With Genesis you do get a split between the fans of when Peter was in the band and when Phil was fronting them and we do try and cater for all tastes. You will hear something you like at a Mama gig for sure.
MW: Where are some of the best places you have played?
JW: Oddly enough one of the best places we have played was a horrible get in with the equipment. Place called Theatre On The Steps in Bridgnorth which is on the side of a very steep hill. Seventy odd steps going down to the venue and then a further hundred and twenty odd to get to the bottom of the hill to load up. The gig was amazing though and the crowd who attended made that a special night. Dave’s second gig and he did wonder what he had let himself in for. Other places I love, well I really enjoyed The Playhouse 2 theatre in Shaw which is very intimate but at the other end of the spectrum we played to six hundred odd people at Tribfest last year and that was a great reaction as well. We are back there on the main stage this year as well which is always nice. There are usually two thousand to three thousand people who attend that festival.
MW: What can fans expect from Mama in 2013? Any new songs?
JW: Well we are adding to the set list all the time, with some songs from We Can’t Dance and Wind & Wuthering due to enter our set. Now that Dave is onboard the light show is getting a long overdue re-vamp. Genesis were known not only for their music but also for having a great show. It is important to us that we make this as close as we can get, well on a very limited budget anyway to what Genesis did live.
MW: So Dave can operate lights then?
JW: No, what Dave and John C will do is work together to program the lights we use to make the visual side of the show better. We wanted to get the music right before we really started looking at the visuals.
JW: We are thinking of doing a full album but as Dave has only recently joined the band he needed to put all his efforts into getting our current set into his head and it didn’t seem fair to dump another chunk of music on him to learn. When he has settled in we will look at this again.
MW: What album are you thinking of?
JW: Aha! That’s a surprise! I can tell you it will be a Collins era album though. [laughs] I notice that even the real bands such as Yes are going down this route of playing whole albums. I like that idea for Mama a lot but it is a lot of work for the other guys in the band.
MW: About the other Genesis tribute bands, do you all get on?
JW: There is a healthy respect between us all and I do count some of the members of other Genesis tribute bands as friends. John C and James went to see G2 and ReGenesis with me last year and indeed John was their lighting operator for two shows on their last tour. I helped out Los Endos by singing with them last year and I know that if any of them needed our help, we would always be willing to if we were able.
MW: Is there a song you wish Mama would play but don’t currently?
JW: Another hard question. I didn’t agree to this interview to be asked hard questions you know. [Laughs] Okay if I am pushed it would have to be Home By The Sea. I do adore singing that song and most Genesis fans seem to love it as well.
MW: Give me a day in your life at a Mama show.
JW: Well the actual work starts a few days prior to the show. We arrange who is going in the van and who is driving in their own cars etc. We look at the logistical side of getting to the venue and load in. Can we use our lights? Our PA system? I normally drive our van so I will collect that around twelve noon from the garage and load up.
JW: Then it’s collect the band and their equipment and travel to the show which can take between an hour and four hours driving depending on distance. Then it’s load in which takes around half an hour and the work of setting up the PA and lighting starts. Dr Kev our lighting tech sets up the lights and I usually set up the PA while the real musicians are setting up their equipment. When it is all ready, Professor Andrew our sound engineer will start to check levels of drums, vocals and other instruments one by one and get balance right.
JW: We then run through a couple of songs to get an overall level and sometimes we will rehearse a song if we feel we need to. Once all that hard work is done, and that takes around three hours, we can then think about getting some food and relaxing before the show. Then Julie and Jan set up our merchandise stall and meet and greet people. The best part of the day for us is the two and a half hours we spend on stage and after the final notes of the encore had died down, we are out and breaking down all our equipment ready to load the van and travel home. It’s a long day. Trust me the time we are on stage is not just all the time we spend on this. [laughs]
MW: Yeah it can be a long day but it’s worth it isn’t it?
JW: Absolutely! To have the chance to play this music is great for us Genesis nutcases and the reaction of the fans make all that hard work worth while.
MW: What are your ambitions for Mama?
JW: Well I have always wanted to play a show outside of the UK and that is what I am working on now. I believe this band can grow and keep giving the fans what they want and hopefully we can play to more and more fans in larger venues. We’re already booked solid for 2013 and up to June for 2014 so we must be doing something right.
MW: John, thanks for your time.