Changing Oil With Mike & The Mechanics!
At extremely short notice Carole [Bobo's wife (I think) -ed. Sep 2010] had been asked to go on tour with Mike & The Mechanics as their tour manager. The small club based around Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford had just visited Luxemburg on a short (45 dates?) European tour. When I saw the faces of the band members they were not too pleased with the choice of the venue. Mike Rutherford, Paul Young (ex-Sad Café) and Paul Carrack (ex-Ace, ex-Squeeze, ex-Nick Lowe) looked everything but enthusiastic when I placed myself in front of this "holy" trio. Probably the main reason had to be found in the fact that their previous interview for RTL television had to be done all over again due to technical problems. Because I didn't want to offer my interview time for the blunder RTL made, a compromise was found: I would do my interview and RTL would film it! However this seemed not an easy task as Rutherford and Co tried to answer in as few words as possible. Let's hope I'll be able to get a more lengthy interview when I visit the Genesis studio later this year!
At one particular point in the Genesis history it was decided to release a string of solo albums. Needless to say this was the start for the gigantic success of drummer/singer Phil Collins yet also Mike Rutherford would leave the band concept and concentrate on his first solo outing in the form of the album Smallcreep's Day. Was this really the basis for what would later on become Mike & The Mechanics? "Not at all. Smallcreep's Day was, when you listen to it today, sort of continuing the Genesis-sound. The idea for Mike & The Mechanics came because I wanted to write shorter songs, songs that would fit easier on the radio. I called two of my favourite singers and when both of them said 'yes,' it was full steam ahead with the project. Paul Carrack has always been one of my all-time favourite singers and Paul Young (NOT the one from the 'Wherever I Lay My Hat' single!) I already new from his band Sad Café. The idea to write fresh, radio friendly pop songs would get an extra dimension if I could use two different voices. The synergy between the three of us has resulted in something magic, something which I could only describe as being Mike & The Mechanics", says a rather dissapointed Rutherford, who clearly is doing this interview without any enthusiasm at all. My technique consists in throwing all Genesis related questions overboard and only concentrate on Mike & The Mechanics. Needless to say, only 20% of my questions survive! Luckily Paul Carrack enters the conversation. "I have a studio at home where I record all of my solo material from the beginning 'til the very end, thus also the ideas which later on will find their way onto yet another Mike & The Mechanics album. When the time is right to release another Mike & The Mechanics album, the three of us get together and we start writing new material out of an acoustic setting." Sometimes people say that three's a crowd but that's without counting on Paul Young. "You can't expect us to send each other hundreds of different tapes. Think of the postage cost alone [laughs]. No, we only function when we are sitting next to each other in a studio. The result is well known by now!"
None of the three members had ever thought this "hobby" would last that long. "Like you rightly say, this started as a hobby between the 'real' work we were all involved in. Right now it is difficult to say whether at all this band isn't getting more important than the other things we do. Our album The Living Years  became number one in America, our debut was a gold album there. We had major hits with songs like 'All I Need Is A Miracle' and 'Silent Running,' so why would we change this 'formula' when in the beginning there never was talk of a certain 'formula' in the first place? So once again we drafted in Nick Davis for the production, steady co-writer Chris Neal and upcoming producer Brian Rowling who is, amongst others, responsable for the latest smash-hit by Cher 'Believe.' When you listen carefully to our first single from the new album, 'Now That You've Gone,' you will hear very clearly what a big influence Rawling has been. You certainly get that same rhythm, which will mean that song will be getting some heavy rotation on the radio!" smiles Rutherford. [The new album is self-titled, and seems available only as an import. -ed.]
Although the Mike & The Mechanics music is ideal for prime time airplay, their albums are slagged off in the specialized press. Honest or inexperienced critics? Yet their new album gets 4 out of a possible 5 in Q Magazine! "We have often been described as 'boring middle aged rockers' who simply can't compete against the recent flood of new and upcoming 'talent,'" says Carrack. "Even to us it was a big surprise to see we are doing this well with our latest album. I think it's once again a proof that people are fed up by listening to the same crap all day, that people really want to hear MUSIC! During our set, I do a long rendition of the Ace classic 'How Long' with lots of attention for the Hammond organ which really brings the roof down. Just before that song Paul Young does his big Sad Café hit 'Everyday Hurts,' and after my song we directly follow with 'I Can't Dance' from Genesis. Middle aged or not, EVERYONE in the audience is up on their feet, dancing, soaking in sweat, singing. Isn't that the essence of a concert: making sure everyone gets a damn good time?"
Rutherford regularly writes songs with BA Robertson, a guy who had a small hit single several years ago. The new composition 'My Little Island' is such a collaboration. Strangely enough, the song starts with the crackling noise of some old vinyl. Nostalgic for bygone days? "It's a little bit of a joke because I can assume that the younger generations will no longer know what vinyl was. Maybe some 'kids' will take their CD back to the shop telling the shop owner they have a faulty disc and if they could please get a new one," smiles Rutherford, followed by the loud laughs of both Pauls. The RTL camera keeps on rolling and, luckily for us, the three seem to come alive. More alive than we have so far been used to. However we have come to the end of the time we were allowed (a small twenty minutes!). The trio thanks me for the interest shown and goes into seclusion before they will start their show.
That concert is, like any other show, attended by Paul Young's wife Pat. "Paul and I met when we were ice skating when we both were fourteen years old," she says. "Since we have always been together. Even when Sad Café went bankrupt we stayed together. Mismanagement from our accountant meant we had no other option. We had been living in poverty for years and then Paul got this phone call from Mike. 'If he was interested to do an audition for this new band he was putting together?' We literally scraped all of our last money together so Paul could buy a train ticket for the audition. The rest is 'history' as they say and that's exactly what it is. I am a very religious person and I can honestly say that Mike Rutherford is a saint. If we didn't have Mike then Paul would probably be doing what the other members of Sad Café have been doing for the rest of their lives. All five of them are hooked on alcohol and have nothing to do with the music industry anymore. When I see Paul's energy night after night exploding out of his 52-year old body, then I thank the lord for having given us the chance to get to know Mike Rutherford."
Or as they sing with the band: "All you need is a miracle!"
[Paul Young passed away on July 15, 2000 -ed]
Mike + The Mechanics (1985)
The Living Years (1988)
Word Of Mouth (1991)
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold (1995)
Reach Out (Touch The Sun) (2011)
The Road (2011)