Ray Wilson Looks Back on Whirlwind Run Fronting Genesis
Ray Wilson opened up about the highs and lows of his brief tenure fronting Genesis, saying the experience was "like being taken to the top of Mount Everest and thrown off."
Wilson joined the veteran prog-pop band in 1996, becoming their third lead singer — following Phil Collins, who quit in March of that year, and Peter Gabriel, who left in 1975. Wilson — who caught the group’s attention as a member of Scottish post-grunge act Stiltskin — took part in the final Genesis album, 1997's Calling All Stations, and their subsequent European tour.
However, a planned American run was canceled due to financial concerns, and the band ultimately dissolved — only to reunite, with Collins and not Wilson, for a 2007 tour and final trek in 2021-22.
The singer described this whirlwind run with Rolling Stone, agreeing with the interviewer Andy Greene’s notion that, by replacing two iconic singers, he faced "double the pressure."
"That really is something," Wilson said. "I was a big fan of Peter Gabriel, probably more than Genesis and Phil to be honest. I loved Peter Gabriel’s music, so that was really nice to be doing that. I mean, even when I auditioned, I had Peter Gabriel singing backing vocals in my ear from the original recordings. I could hear Phil singing along with me as well, doing backing vocals and stuff. It was a very, very surreal experience."
Exploring the mixed critical and commercial response to Calling All Stations, Wilson noted that the record had "some really nice moments" but also included some material that sounds "a little bit too much like [bassist and guitarist Mike Rutherford’s other band] Mike and the Mechanics, and maybe thus too poppy." He added, "I kind of feel like we were maybe in the middle of where we wanted to be and where we thought we should be."
Wilson lamented the fact that the touring lineup didn’t record a follow-up album, noting his displeasure with how the band ultimately fell apart.
"'It would have been nice to call me up and go, 'Hey, Ray, how are you doing? We’ve decided not to carry on,'" he explained. "It would have taken five minutes. That was the only thing that kind of upset me a bit. It was just the way that Mike and [manager] Tony Smith dealt with it. I didn’t think that was very nice. But [keyboardist] Tony Banks was the opposite. He was a true gentleman."
The singer also entertained a "fan fiction" question from Greene, who floated the idea of a touring lineup featuring Wilson, Genesis touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer, former touring drummer Chester Thompson and even Banks, Rutherford and (possibly) former guitarist Steve Hackett.
"There's no reason why not," he said. "Certainly from my point of view, there's not a problem. And as you say, Phil is now retired. He's had a magnificent career. Nobody can argue with it. And there's some great songs that he's created, that the guys have created, that people like to listen to. If I’m singing the songs that are suited to my voice, like 'Carpet Crawlers,’ I’m fine with that."