We decided here at Mama HQ that it was high time we sat down with the band and figured out what on Earth is going on. Especially the not so new guys. Here’s the resulting interview!
Webmaster: Guys, welcome to the interview that was never supposed to be an interview. I wanted to ask you a few questions to put on the website. Where do we start? Okay, what are your musical influences?
Andy: I’m a massive prog and rock fan. Outside of Genesis I love Rush, Pink Floyd, Yes and King Crimson in the prog world but I also like U2, INXS, Van Halen and Marillion who I suppose are prog too! I also love Billy Joel’s piano playing and a bit of Steely Dan, but who doesn’t?
Dave: I love all kinds of music from folk to rock, from ambient to jazz, from pop to prog, you name it I probably listen to it. As far as influencing my playing goes, it has to be Chris Squire from Yes, followed by Scott LaFaro, a double bass player who played with several jazz groups in the late 1950s and early 1960s until his untimely death in 1961.
Simon: I’m literally all over the place. I was brought up on a wealth of different genres such as blues, rock, soul, pop and calypso (West Indian Dad). My earliest musical memory was when I was two years old and I heard Green Manalishi by Fleetwood Mac. It stirred a huge emotional response in me and that got me hooked. So even to this day, Peter Green is still my biggest influence and inspiration. Mum was huge Beatles fan so their music was always playing in the house. I started listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest when I was about nine or ten years old. I found punk and new wave a short while later and a little after that, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King. The Police were a favourite of mine combining reggae and rock riffs. In the 90s, my favourite two bands were Tool and Bad Religion. The important thing I have taken from this is I have never limited myself to genres. Musical influence can come in many guises, you just need to be receptive to them.
Webmaster: How about favourite non Genesis songs and albums?
Andy: Turn of the Century from Going for the One. One of Yes’ best tracks for me. Album? Going for the One by Yes. What isn’t there to like? From the opening steel guitar of the title track through the beauty of Turn of the Century to the hair on the arms standing to attention in the finale of Awaken. I know most people would go with Close to the Edge for Yes’ best album but I just think GFTO sonically has everything.
Simon: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Iron Maiden. It’s almost impossible for me to give you a favourite album but if I was at gun point on the question then Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron Maiden.
Dave: This is really difficult to answer as it changes day by day, week by week. If I had to say one thing it would be Heart of the Sunrise by Yes. For an album, it’s a very difficult choice to make but the more I have thought about this over the years the more I keep coming back to The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell. Joni is my favourite musician of all time. Her lyrics are like short stories and no-one can sing like Joni, although Laura Marling come close. Joni, like many folk guitarists, invented new guitar tunings, she also played several other instruments, most notably the piano and zither. When I found out that my gran had a zither I tried really hard to play it but just could not get a tune out of it. Joni has written all kinds of music including folk, pop, rock and jazz but on this album she hits perfection.
Webmaster: Okay. Favourite movies?
Simon: Blade Runner. The original cut, not the acutely awful monologued US version.
Dave: I used to go to the cinema on a regular basis but now I never go. I can’t stand the noise of other people either talking, eating or looking at their phones! My favourite film that I watched at the cinema is Blade Runner. I had read the book and the film brought that book to life.
Andy: I must be one of the few people who actully went to the cinema to watch The Shawshank Redemption. I don’t think I have come out of a cinema so quiet yet uplifted. Cinematic genius.
Webmaster: Best gig ever?
Andy: Best concert would have to be INXS at the Royal Court in Liverpool around 1993/94. They had played Wembley stadium only a couple of years prior so to see them at such an intimate venue was fantastic. It was in the days when you had to actually queue up for tickets and they were sold only out of the old HMV in Liverpool, so we had to get down early to buy the tickets. There’s just something special about seeing a band in a small venue with other like minded people singing and dancing along.
Dave: Really difficult because I have seen so many great artists including Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Renaissance, Roxy Music, Sparks, Supertramp to name but a few but it is probably Curved Air. They played all my favourite songs, including Phantasmagoria and Sonja Kristina was on great form.
Simon: Best concert without doubt was Peter Gabriel, 1993 at Earls Court in London (Us on Tour). We had very special tickets in an inner circle next to the stage. Me and my (now) wife stood next to all the musicians in this location including Sinead O’Connor who was doing Vocals for that gig. PG was in touching distance but we avoided strange and stalker like behaviour, LOL. PG gigs always focus on sound quality and this was no exception. Mr Tony Levin’s bass went through you and whilst I am not a religious person, it was akin to a religious experience (I can imagine).
Webmaster: Interesting choices. So what about a concert to forget?
Andy: Julian Cope at the Royal Court in Liverpool. I have never been a fan and only attended as a friend had a spare ticket. Anyway the first half of the show was all Julian’s new album which I don’t think many people in the audience had heard because in typical Liverpool fashion there was a call of “Play something Good” shouted from the back of the room. He did go on to play more well known material but to me it just seem to last forever. Each to their own though.
Dave: I saw Aerosmith at the Empire in Liverpool in the 1970s and although musically the band were great it was just too loud. From the start the volume hurt my ears and made me feel sick in my stomach. We walked out!
Simon: Sisters of Mercy at Leeds University in the 2000s. A childhood favourite so I was looking forward to seeing them. The whole stage was covered with haze and fog for the light show for the entire gig. You could see a musician once every four songs! I appreciate the lasers work best with the haze and we use one ourselves obviously but come on, the whole show covered? Sonically they absolutely nailed it but I may as well had stayed at home and played the vinyl. I walked out.
Webmaster: How about a gig you should have gone to?
Andy: Easy, Michael Jackson at Aintree. I wouldn’t say I was a fan but hey it was Michael Jackson!
Dave: Probably Yes last year (2022). I watched a few clips of them playing in Scotland the week before I was due to go and to be honest it wasn’t very good so I decided to give the Manchester show a miss. Several of my friends went and said how good they were. Damn!
Simon: I have two. I had a ticket to see Nirvana in 1991 at the Duchess of York pub in Leeds (before Nevermind was released I believe). For some reason I didn’t go. I gave the unstubbed ticket to a record collector ten years later. My biggest regret was not going to see Rory Gallagher at the Irish Centre in Leeds and my hero passing away a short while after. I never got to see him at a concert.
Webmaster: What inspired you to learn your instrument?
Simon: My mum and dad always wanted me to play guitar so they arranged formal lessons for me when I was eight. I hated the lessons and didn’t pick it back up until I was sixteen. It dawned on me that I could at least try to replicate my musical influences. Clapton, Knopfler, Green, Randy Rhoads etc, all gripped me with their phrasing and technique. I wanted some of that. My favourite thing to do is play live to an audience.
Andy: I began playing guitar around 1990 more because it was what all my friends were doing than I had been inspired to. Teenagers eh? Anyway as I began to get more into music I was drawn to the prog sound of Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd. Obviously these bands have keyboards heavily featured in their music so after a few years I decided I wanted to learn to play some of the fabulous keyboard parts of Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman etc. So, I purchased a keyboard to learn some of the parts for my personal satisfaction rather than any aspirations to play keyboards in a band. It’s fair to say that my keyboard skills have come on a lot since then but as any musician will attest, playing an instrument is always a learning experience and a challenge.
Dave: I got an acoustic guitar in 1970 and had lessons with a neighbour who was a hippy. He taught me the basics and the band I worked hard to mimic was Creedence Clearwater Revival. I learned a lot of their songs including the whole of the Willy and the Poor Boys album. Then one day he played me Deep Purple and I went away and learned what I thought was the guitar part to Speed King. He pointed out I had worked out the bass line and the rest is history. Round about the same time I bought a sampler album called The Age of Atlantic, which had one track from different artists on the Atlantic Record label. One song stood out, it was Survival by Yes. The bass guitar sounded as loud as the lead guitar. I was hooked.
Webmaster: How important is it to recreate as close as possible to the original sounds on the songs you play with Mama?
Andy: Very. Attention to detail on this is important as the audience are familiar with every nuance of each song. I know in later years Tony himself just went with modern sounds however on certain songs like Mama, Home By the Sea and No Son of Mine the sounds are either samples of the original keyboards or rack versions of the original keyboards.
Dave: Everyone in Mama is totally focused on sounding as authentic as we can make it. Our aim is to play a concert so that even if we do not look like Genesis (we don’t go in for dressing up!) then we do sound like Genesis. This is probably more of an issue for Simon and Andy but when I play guitar parts on the double neck I use an FX unit to try to match the original sounds.
Simon: It is the most important thing for me and when I attended the audition for Mama, I was very well prepared. I spent an extraordinary amount of time getting the tones right with my equipment. Whilst I recognise I am not the best guitarist in the world, I absolutely do my homework. I learn the music and I want the sounds as close as possible. Looking at websites, listening carefully to the tracks and live versions of songs. There are a wealth of different guitar tones in a Genesis set and the audience have paid good money to hear that music replicated as it was intended. So we owe it to the audience to get it right. We have a very special singer and it’s up to us to ensure we compliment that voice with the requisite sounds.
Webmaster: Thanks guys! It’s going up on the website right….. NOW!