Mike Rutherford prefers focusing on the future, even if recent projects have required the guitarist/bassist to think about life.
Late 2014 saw the release of a three-CD retrospective, R-Kive, featuring favorites from his days in Genesis as well as selections from band members’ solo careers, and Sum of the Parts, a feature-length documentary that uses archival footage and new interviews to tell the band’s story, warts and all.
Early 2015 brings the Mike+The Mechanics greatest hits (and some Genesis songs) tour to North America as well as a two-CD deluxe reissue of 1988’s Living Years with live tracks from that tour and a new version of “The Living Years.” In addition, Rutherford is set to release an autobiography that discusses not only the early days of Genesis, but England’s post-war generational and social changes; it was inspired by Rutherford’s discovery of his late father’s unpublished memoirs, and the parallels in their lives. “I’ve learned more about me in the last year than the previous 20 years,” he said. “It’s been an interesting time.”
Rutherford released two solo albums in the early ’80s, but his dissatisfaction with them led to the formation of Mike+The Mechanics, which included two incredible lead vocalists in Paul Carrack and Paul Young. The self-titled 1985 debut album produced the hits “Silent Running,” “All I Need is a Miracle,” and “Taken In.” The band recorded a handful of albums before Young died in 2000. Rutherford resurrected the band in 2010 with vocalists Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar.
Though he is happy with his work as a guitarist and bassist, Rutherford thinks of himself primarily as a songwriter. He has written on his own, but prefers a partnership.
“My most original aspect is writing songs that sort of have a character, a personality. I think my main point of view is to write. That’s my main passion over the years, whether with Genesis or the Mechanics. I still feel that way. I find songwriting a bit lonely and a bit dull on my own sometimes, maybe because I’ve always been in a band and collaboration with others excites me. I enjoy the process. I think it’s really where I come to life the most.”
If you spent more than three minutes in the mid ’80s listening to pop radio or watching MTV, you know “The Living Years” was a major hit about a troubled father/son relationship. Rutherford said it reflected more on the experience of co-writer B.A. Robertson. “I still get phone calls, e-mail, letters, and notes from people saying the song changed their lives,” he said. “I find that very humbling in a nice way.”
The source of the live tracks on the Living Years deluxe edition may surprise those interested in recording technology.
“The live stuff is all from cassette – board tapes. Cassettes were always frowned upon with the hiss and noise, but they’ve got a nice feel to them. And board tapes, of course, are always too loud. But, the compression on the cassette is working nicely. I’m surprised at how good the cassettes sounded.”
Rutherford has always used an eclectic variety of guitars, basses, and bass pedals to create his sound – everything from Shergold to Rickenbacker to Steinberger. These days, his main guitar is a Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton signature model that is virtually stock; he also favors a Gibson doubleneck and a Yamaha bass. He recently purchased a vintage Höfner violin bass.
Speaking of gear, more is readily at hand after he helped organize Genesis’ stored equipment.
“The studio had a big barn next door, stacked full of cases with amplifiers and guitars. We finally converted an old studio control room into a shop, and now all the guitars, amplifiers, keyboards, drum machines – everything – is out. It’s like a showroom. I found stuff I didn’t know I had!”
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.