“The simpler things are, the better they work,” says Mike Rutherford, the unassuming guitarist whose dual career - in Genesis and Mike + the Mechanics - seems about as complicated as any other juggling act. Rutherford, however, insists that the process is much simpler than it looks from the outside.
“There’s a lot of luck and a lot of timing involved, but there’s never been any conflict,” he says. “There’s nothing labored about it in the least: Once you’ve settled into the routine, things just take care of themselves.”
Rutherford describes the recording of the fourth Mike + the Mechanics album, “Beggar On A Beach Of Gold,” out this week on Atlantic, in similarly smooth terms.
“(Longtime writing partner) B.A. Robertson and I completed a good deal of pre-production work at my home before (lead singers) Paul Carrack and Paul Young came down,” he says. “That really helped matters. Where sometimes it’s a chore to get enough material, this time it was difficult to edit down to one album’s worth.”
While certainly rich in songs that should appeal to fans of the lush sound that took the Mechanics to the top of the singles chart with hits like “All I Need Is A Miracle” or the emotional “Living Years,” “Beggars On A Beach Of Gold” breaks new ground. Besides a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe,” departures include elegiac pieces such as “Someone Always Hates Someone.”
“Because of the places they’ve had success in the past, there’s a lingering perception that this is a singles band,” says Atlantic director of product development Michael Krumper. “But they’ve always made well-considered, complete albums. I think this album, in particular, emphasizes that fact.”
The listener-friendly sounds generated by Mike + the Mechanics over the past 10 years have, in some ways, echoed the changes within Rutherford’s “other” band. While his guitar work on such progressive epics as “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” was lauded by technical mavens, he insists, “It’s not really in my nature to be flashy.
“It never has been. From day one, we always thought we were making pop music,” says Rutherford. “We were all influenced by Motown and the Beatles. We listened to nothing but pop music. It may seem strange, but when we sat down and started to write, what came out (in Genesis) was obviously pretty far from that.”
Rutherford admits there’s some shoring up to be done after the commercial disappointment of the last Mechanics effort, 1991’s “Word Of Mouth,” which failed to surpass the gold certification level reached by its predecessors. Both band and label agree that the failure to tour impeded its progress.
“I think it may have been too much of a departure in terms of sound,” says Rutherford. “But if we’d been able to go on the road, which we weren’t because of my commitment to Genesis, we’d have done much better. It’s really great fun to tour with the Mechanics. I’d like to do this tour without any great big rigs, any huge show … just go out and play.”
Krumper agrees that a tour - tentatively slated for a late spring kickoff - is a key component.
Rutherford says, “There’s enough history there now that people don’t seem to use the term ‘side project’ any longer. I’m grateful for that, because this has always been more important than that. Even if it weren’t successful, as far as I’m concerned, there would still be a Mike + the Mechanics.”