Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Oct 19th 2011 3:00PM by Chris Epting
The production finds Gabriel performing with the 46-piece New Blood Orchestra, mixing songs from his 2010 covers album 'Scratch My Back' with classic tracks from across his solo career, presented with brand-new orchestral arrangements. In a recent interview with Spinner, Gabriel spoke about the show and a certain classic music video that still gets quite a bit of play.
Do you feel any pressure performing in front of a large orchestra like this as opposed to a more conventional rock 'n' roll band?
I definitely feel intimidated, very exposed and naked. But from the beginning, I was very excited about it, mostly because of what I knew I would learn from the experience. A lot of that comes from the way we arrange things. There are many sparse moments with no driving rhythm section underneath. Those quieter moments, for me, were valuable and taught me a lot of things about singing. When I go back to working with a band, I know that I will appreciate the fact that sometimes, what you don't play or sing is just as important as what you do play or sing. There's magic in the silence.
You include many of your classic songs, but some of the bigger hits are left off. How did you choose what to interpret with the orchestra?
Well, certain things just work better with an orchestra than other things. The songs that structurally break out of the traditional verse-chorus-verse format and also told a story, I found, worked better overall. Songs like 'Intruder' and 'The Rhythm of the Heat' really seemed to lend themselves to this sort of interpretation. Whereas something like 'Shock the Monkey,' I didn't want to just do that song and add strings [laughs]. Also, I chose the songs that, put all together, seemed to tell a narrative story. When I go to the cinema, I don't like things to be all chopped up –- I'd rather watch something that flows.
The DVD probably gives listeners a chance to appreciate some of your less famous work.
Absolutely. When I was young and listened to my favorite artists, like the Beatles, for instance, many of the tracks I didn't care for as much at the beginning I would love very deeply later on. The hits would just jump out at you, but those songs that took awhile would really become special and lasting. The idea of savoring something over time is important to me. There are parallels today in Italy with the "slow food movement," this idea of slowing things down to really appreciate the finer points of something.
The visuals in the show are very dramatic and striking, as we've come to expect from you. What artists inspired that side of your work?
A lot of people I've liked over the years have really inspired my visuals onstage. In particular, Laurie Anderson. And the video artist Bill Viola is someone that I think has always been a very visual storyteller, and I admire him.
What's it like to have your daughter, Melanie, singing with you onstage?
It's lovely. As I like to say, nepotism works [laughs]. And it's been incredible to watch her venture into the deep end, so to speak, performing in front of larger and larger audiences. I think she's just wonderful.
The video for your 1986 song 'Sledgehammer' was recently voted, once again, the greatest video of all time. Did you have any idea back then it would have such a lasting impact?
I never thought it would have this sort of life. I mean, we knew it was different. But you can't expect things like what has happened with that video. There were just such wonderful people that worked on it: The director Stephen Johnson, the Quay brothers, with that amazing claymation and everything else. I was just so lucky to have been able to work those people. It was a lot of work. But it was a lot of fun, too.
On your song 'Don't Give Up,' is it true that your original duet partner was supposed to be Dolly Parton, not Kate Bush?
That's really true. I'd asked [Parton] and she turned it down. What's funny is, we met a couple of times after that, and she ended up asking me to sing it with her on her TV show, but we were never able to make it happen.