Veteran’s time for change has arrived

It’s been a career loaded with success stories for musician Phil Collins, who is due in Greece for his first ever show, a two-hour production, at the capital’s Peace and Friendship Stadium on November 1. Over a 35-year course, beginning with the groundbreaking band Genesis and followed by an immensely successful solo career, Collins has sold 200 million albums, won an Oscar, several Grammys, released countless hits, and collaborated with a long list of other significant musicians, among them John Cale, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and Sting. Amid the activity, he has married three times and fathered five children. The singer, songwriter, and one of rock music’s most respected drummers has ranked as one of the industry’s hardest working figures. But now, at the age of 54, Collins has opted to stop touring. He discussed the reasons during a telephone interview with Kathimerini from his Geneva home. Is this world tour really the last you’re doing? Yes. The time has come for me to change my life – for many reasons. The first of these is that I’m dealing with a hearing problem and the doctors have advised me to turn down the volume a little. The most important reason, however, is that I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old boy who’s going to school next year, and I want to be by his side. Let me make it clear: I’m not stopping artistically and I’m not retiring. Do you feel the need to make up for lost personal moments? Definitely. I have five children: A 33-year-old daughter, a 29-year-old son, another 16-year-old daughter, and two youngsters aged 4 and a half and 9 months. I missed out on many precious moments, especially with my older children. My relationship with them has been restored in recent years. I’ve had to build from scratch to help them understand why their father wasn’t by their side when they needed him most. You know – because there are a few divorces on my resume – if I were to discuss this with a man who’d separated, he’d know exactly what I mean… Is there such a thing as a time when an artist feels that his or her ambitions have been fulfilled? You can believe this, if you like, but I never had any major ambitions. I grabbed hold of the opportunities and did a few things. My personal ambition, perhaps, was to play the drums, which is something I’ve been doing since the age of 5. I’m now 54, so I’ve been playing for 49 years. Apart from that, I never wanted to become a star or make a number-one album. I like to work, but as the years go by I want time for myself and my family. I also want to do other things. Have you already begun doing something different? No, but I have lots of ideas. In recent years, I’ve been writing music for the musical of «Tarzan,» which will premier on Broadway next May…This, for example, is something different for me. If you were to ask whether I’d do a musical 10 years ago, I would have said no. It’s a matter of circumstances and timing. You love jazz music and have recorded a jazz album in the past. Do you intend to repeat this? As a drummer, I adore jazz and big bands. It was wonderful playing with Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett in 1996, but to repeat this the conditions will need to be right. I came close in 2001, but my ear [hearing problem] stopped me from doing so. What’s the secret behind a long and successful career? I wouldn’t have a clue. There’s no secret. There’s luck. Genesis was a great band – unique and special – and my solo course has, in essence, been a reflection of things I liked listening to. Perhaps because most of the songs I’ve written were based on experience and people found honesty in my work. Which projects of yours do you distinguish as the best? The most personal things I’ve written are on the albums «Both Sides» and «Testify,» which weren’t my most successful commercially. Have you ever envied work by other artists? The Beatles. Even now, I wish I could write songs like theirs. It’s quite unbelievable, but there are songwriters I admire, such as John Martin, Paul Brady, Stephen Bishop, and Bruce Hornsby, who either haven’t had a hit in years or are doing nothing. So talent alone then does not suffice for a successful and long career? Unfortunately not. There are artists who have talent and luck and others who have talent and no luck. Have you witnessed drastic changes in the music industry over recent years? In the past, it was all about music. These days it’s business. And everybody pays attention to image. Under no circumstances would I want to start a career today. And there are so many television and radio shows, and bombardments of songs that, ultimately, can lead to hearing a song or seeing a video clip 30 times in a day. In the end, you get bored and can’t be bothered to catch an artist’s show. You’ve been living in Switzerland in recent years. Don’t you miss England? I don’t consider myself to be entirely English. I wouldn’t have chosen to live in Switzerland, but I fell in love with a Swiss woman and am now very happy to be living here. This country could well be one of the few remaining places where civilization, in daily life, still exists. People are so polite to each other and even strangers exchange greetings. It also used to be like this in England, but not anymore. Your first ever show in Athens is just days away. I take it this won’t be your first visit. Of course not. I’ve been to Greece for holidays, and my most recent visit was for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. What did you think of it? Superb. It couldn’t have been otherwise. Greece is a place that’s full of history. And I assume that people like me, who love history, had a superb time, just like me. There’s a lot of curiosity here about whether Genesis material will make up a big part of your Athens show. Genesis songs, quite naturally, will be included. In a nutshell, this will be a greatest-hits show. I’d like to point out that people must catch the concert from the very beginning – for two reasons. The first is that we’re «English» about the starting time, and the second is that the set begins with me on drums. And you can’t miss out on that. November 1, Peace and Friendship Stadium, 9 p.m. For ticket purchase and orders: Metropolis music stores,, and 801.11.60000.