Interview with Mario Giammetti – Genesis – 1967 to 1975: The Peter Gabriel Years

Journalist Mario Giammetti is a fan of Genesis. In fact he’s the founding member of the renowned Genesis Italian fanzine, Dusk. The first issue (although labelled issue zero) of Dusk was published in March of 1991. It featured an interview with Anthony Phillips, as well as reviews for the latest Phil Collins album “Serious Hits Live”, amongst other reviews. Mario has written a number (fourteen to be precise) of books about Genesis and all of its members at one time or another. Mario’s first book about Genesis was called Genesis Story, which was first published in 1988. Mario’s new addition to his published series of books is called Genesis – 1967 to 1975: The Peter Gabriel Years and so we decided to get in contact.

Due to the geographical distances, we opted for an online interview rather than our preferred in person interview – also in turns out in this moment to be the best option for all interviews.

Mario July 2018.

1) How and when did your interest in Genesis start?

I was a teenager in the summer of 1973 and was on a beach with a jukebox.  A boy, older than me, put a song on, it was Watcher Of The Skies. I discovered years later it was the edited version, with no intro nor outro. To my ears, the music seemed weird, but fascinating; it had something which attracted me as it was definitely different from the music I was listening to at that time. Mostly Italian pop rock and especially introverted songwriters, but also a few prog bands like PFM and Le Orme. As for the international music, I knew the most famous songs by Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, apart obviously from the Beatles and Rolling Stones. So, Genesis music intrigued me, but I did not have the chance (nor the money!) to investigate further, as I was just a boy and, once I returned to my everyday life, I was more concentrated by school and other stuff. It wasn’t before 1978 that Genesis really clashed with my life. When my sister’s then boyfriend lent her a tape of And Then There Were Three. Something magical happened when I listened to that whole album. For some reason, I immediately understood that I had found “my” band. So I started to look for their previous work. In the pre-Internet era, you could only get information from rock books and few musical magazines. In fact every week I was buying the wonderful mag Ciao 2001, where Armando Gallo had also written in the early 70’s. So, once I learnt that the band had already released several albums, I started to buy them all, depending on the limited availability of money. You can imagine my reaction and my wonder every time I managed to listen to one of their previous masterpieces.

2) What was your first Genesis or solo members first concert?

When Genesis played the only Lamb concert in Italy (March 1975) in Turin, I was still a teenager. After that, Italy was affected by a lot of restrictions because there were political tensions in my country. There were incidents with the police and also a movement of protesters against the price of the tickets who claimed music had to be free. Hence, Italy was cut off from international artists for around five or six years. The first signs that the times were changing arrived at the very end of the decade. I attended a festival celebrating the tenth anniversary of Woodstock in Florence in the summer of 1979 (with Joe Cocker, Richie Havens, Country Joe McDonald and Arlo Guthrie) and the next year I attended a show by Lou Reed. My first Genesis related concert arrived in September 1980, when Peter Gabriel did his first Italian tour. More than 50,000 people attended three concerts. I was at the first one in Florence, held in a big park, and I was completely blown away: although at the time his stage was not as sophisticated as it would have been in later years, I loved Peter’s theatrical approach. But I loved even more the incredible energy coming from Peter and his 4-piece band (Jerry Marotta, Larry Fast, John Ellis and John Giblin). The sound was pure dynamite.

That same year, Steve Hackett also toured Italy for the first time in his career. But as soon as he landed in my country, a terrible earthquake devastated my area, causing nearly 3,000 victims, so I renounced to see Steve’s show in Rome. It was, however, just a question of a few months, because in September 1981 Steve came back. This time he had a different rhythm section and he had also become the lead singer. The Rome show, inside the marvellous Castel Sant’Angelo, was again pure magic. I wrote something about that show in Steve’s first box set Live Archive 70’s 80’s 90s booklet.

Finally, one year later it was Genesis’ turn to come back to Italy after a seven years gap. I was really moved when Phil, Tony, Mike, Chester and Daryl entered Rome’s Palasport stage and the audience was so crazy that it was difficult to recognise the very first notes of Dance On A Volcano. After that, of course, I have seen Genesis and solo performances many many times, along with a lot of other artists. But to this day, that first Gabriel concert in Florence still keeps the most special place in my heart.

3) Can you tell me which member of Genesis you first met/interviewed?

In 1990, I did my first trip in London. I had found the address of Anthony Phillips and so rang unannounced (and impolitely, I realised later) at his doorbell. He was so incredibly kind and, as he was recording in his home studio, he suggested to meet again the next week for an interview. By that time, I already had two years of writing experience for the Italian magazine Ciao 2001. The interview was wonderful: I had so many questions for Ant and he was so lovely. We spent around one hour and a half together in his garden and he even played a couple of pieces on the 12 string guitar. I was in heaven.

Mario meeting Anthony Phillips in 1990, note Ant is reading Mario’s first book

4) Is that event what inspired the creation of the fanzine DUSK?

The starting point was indeed my meeting with Anthony Phillips. When I was back in Italy, Ciao 2001 approved the interview, but only conceded me two pages. Although, it realistically was a nice space for an artist like Ant, who had never been interviewed before for the Italian press as far as I knew, I was wondering what to do with the rest of the interview.  After several months, in March 1991 I decided to prepare an experimental issue zero of Dusk, which was sent to anyone requesting it, in return of a stamp. It looks very naïve now, and it was naïve indeed! I did the fanzine myself, by gluing photographs in the empty spaces I left on purpose in the text, written with an old computer. I started Dusk for fun, but tried to make it balancing the same level of passion and professionalism because of my experience as a journalist. I wanted to write serious and not biased reviews and also I wanted to give information around the whole Genesis world to Italian people, which it was impossible to find on the musical press. I didn’t know that a fanzine, The Waiting Room, already existed in England for some years (1987). For that matter, I even ignored the existence of the Genesis Information magazine (1976 to 1992). But anyway, it was just an experiment. Had anyone told me that thirty years later I would still be publishing Dusk, I would have laughed.

5) What were the circumstances surrounding the writing of your first Genesis book?

This happened three years before the birth of Dusk and it was all of a sudden. After nearly ten years of love for Genesis, for some strange reason I said to myself that I HAD to write a Genesis book. At the time, in Italy there were quite a lot of books dedicated to other rockstars, but not to Genesis, apart from Armando’s legendary biography. I felt there was something more to say about the music of the band, so in my spare time I started to write it without even worrying about an editor. When I finished a first rough version, I sent it to the only two Italian musical editors of the time. One of them answered immediately: my father got the phone call and, when I called back, they suggested me to expand some parts and also gave me some advices. At the end of 1987, taking advantage of my convalescence at home after a surgery, I spent a couple of weeks rewriting it all and trying to do my very best. The book Genesis Story and was published in the first half of 1988.

6) You have authored many books and many editions of DUSK, which is your favourite band member?

It’s a difficult answer, because I really love all of them. Everyone has something very special. As I have written many times in the last 32 years, Genesis’ greatness stands not only in what they have produced as a band, but also for the multitude of solo careers they generated, something that no other band has equaled in the whole of rock history. If you can name any band that has had more to offer – not less than six individual and important solo careers (not to mention that even the last – and definitely underated – Ray Wilson has done a lot of work on his own). Everyone of them has his own style, exploring such a wide area of musical styles: rock, pop, progressive, rhythm & blues, world, blues, jazz, classical, library, dance, folk, fusion. However, if you ask me to mention just one solo career, it must be Steve Hackett’s: not only he has released some of my all time favourite albums, but he is also incredibly creative at his current age, which makes me feel a huge amount of respect for him. But if you ask me to choose only one album for the desert island, then it will definitely will be Anthony Phillips’ The Geese And The Ghost, a masterpiece which every music lover should have at home.

Mario in the middle of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett 2010.

7) Can you tell me about this new book that is being printed in English?

This book deals with the early years of the band career and was originally published in Italy in 2013. The focus is on the music: every album has been analysed deeply and basically the book is written by Genesis themselves. In fact, what I did was essentially to put in order the sometimes confused memories of all the band members. The main difference stands in the chance that I got to listen to every album (from 1969 to 1974) with one of the original performers. I listened to From Genesis To Revelation and Trespass with Anthony Phillips; to Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound with Steve Hackett; and to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway with Tony Banks. This was the most interesting part of the job, because while listening to the albums, Ant, Steve and Tony revealed several details which had never surfaced before. For instance, a few tricks used for keyboards parts, who composed a certain section of a certain song, and so on. Aside from that, I also wrote a detailed critical review of every album, temporarily placed in its correspondent historical and artistic era. There is also the second part of each chapter, telling the story of the subsequent tours of every album. These feature an accurate (although not 100% perfect) list of the concerts performed, this was compiled with the help of the American collector, George German. Finally, a very nice series of photographs are enclosed in the book, most of which never seen before (although some, after the Italian publication of the book, surfaced on the web).

 

This is the new book to be released on the 8th May

The British editor bought the rights from Italian original editor Giunti. Kingmaker is a new company formed by Prog magazine journalist Nick Shilton and Big Big Train’s founding member Greg Spawton, and I am so proud that they chose my book to start their new enterprise. Greg and Nick are two incredibly lovely and passionate guys, but also extremely devoted and thorough, so the work was done with extreme and scrupulous attention. I also would like to thank Octavia Brown for her perfect translation into the English language.

We are already working to the sequel of this book, which will deal with the second part of the story: from A Trick To The Tail and hopefully up to The Last Domino? Tour.

We would like to thank Mario for giving us his time for this interview, we wish him well with the English version of the book, to be published on the 8th May 2020.
Genesis – 1967 to 1975: The Peter Gabriel Years is the definitive biography of the early years of one of the world’s greatest progressive rock bands. It contains numerous exclusive interviews with band members and with all of the important personalities who were part of the story of Genesis between 1967 and 1975. The book also features a number of photographs which have never been published previously , plus interviews carried out with individual members of Genesis during listen throughs of each of the band’s first five albums.

You can order your copy of Mario’s brand new book in English from Burning Shed Mario’s Genesis Book

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