A Few Words With...David Myers

Interview and photos by John A. Wilcox

The first time I saw David Myers play with The Musical Box, I was absolutely floored! He played every Tony Banks part with confidence, accuracy, and with a loving touch - capturing every nuance, every subtle touch. It is our pleasure to take you inside the mind behind the fingers. Ladies and gents, Mr David Myers...

PS: At what age did you start playing the piano, and what attracted you to it?

DM: I started piano lessons just before my fifth birthday. My mother noticed an ad placed by a local teacher and asked me if I was interested in studying. I said "yes" without a moment's hesitation. This has always struck me as interesting for two reasons.
First, I remember every detail of the incident --- what I was wearing, where I was sitting, how my mother was standing, my tone of voice --- everything. The point is that I've found in life that when an event that will *eventually* be shown to be important takes place, it lodges itself in my memory even though I'm not I'm aware of it being important at the time.
I remember nothing earlier or later than that little event for quite some time, but that single moment in time is like yesterday in my memory. There was no way I could've known how important that decision would be.
Second, I don't know why I said 'yes'. I distinctly remember not being necessarily interested and for that matter, barely digesting the question. It is not in my nature to get into things lightly.

PS: What led to you taking the leap and pursuing music as a career?

DM: There was actually no leap taken. I gradually, over many years, became a full-time professional musician, and there was never any questioning of it. The only real change I chose to make was to drop out of a university music degree and start working in the field. I was terribly bored and uninspired in school and made a good choice to cut it short, although I think I would've had a great time studying any number of other things.
It was some sort of rebellious move, I think. I walked out the front door of the school and thought: "I bet I can make money doing this", and a week later, I started doing just that, even though it was playing crappy bars and nightclubs for little money or artistic gratification.

PS: What was your first paying gig as a musician?

DM: I was the accompanist for an elementary school musical theatre production of Oliver! while I was still in early high school. That's also the show that is often cited in reference to Phil Collins' early beginnings.

PS: What drew your interest to working as part of the Musical Box?

DM: In 1993, I had just finished swearing that I would not play in any more bands. I'm reading the paper in Montreal one day and there is an ad for a keyboard player for a Genesis tribute band. Without a moment's thought, I go past the ad, finish reading the paper and throw it out. Genesis was the ultimate band of my childhood, so that is saying a lot about how resolved I was to not work in bands anymore.
A few weeks later, seemingly out of nowhere, I get this inexplicable urge to answer the ad. The paper is long gone. I phone their offices and get them to go through their archives and give me the phone number in the ad. The rest, as they say.......
I've never known why I had such an abrupt and unquestionable need to answer the ad, and two weeks after reading it and not thinking of it again until that moment.

PS: There are currently dozens of bands out there playing Genesis songs. What about the Musical Box sets it apart from the others?

DM: Well, I confess that these days I am not well informed of what the other bands are doing, so I can only talk about what we do, and hopefully that'll explain it.
First, we perform a given show as it would have been performed on a given night during a given tour. Through the years, there have been choices made as to whether to play live or studio versions of the material, but in terms of visuals and setlist, the show is an attempt to re-create what one would have seen.
Second, we were lucky enough to assemble a group of people who were obsessed with Genesis' music to an unhealthy degree. When I talk about it now, I expect people to think I'm exaggerating, but there is no exaggeration needed ---- we would spend 12, 14, 16 hours a day in the rehearsal room, debating and arguing and listening and re-listening to the most minute, microscopic details of the music in the interest of getting our reproduction of it as perfect as possible.
There are a number of reasons why The Musical Box has succeeded as it has, but the paramount one, to my mind, is the religion, the drug we got addicted to ---- the quest to reproduce this music as perfectly as possible. The beauty of it is that the perfection was unattainable and even approaching it was very difficult. So no matter what, you could never get bored.

PS: What has been the most difficult Genesis song for the band to get locked down in terms of performance, and why?

DM: That question would probably be answered differently by different members. In terms of getting all the parts happening off the bat, there is no competition for The Cinema Show, with the multiple 12-string, overdubbed, alternatively tuned guitar parts. That was an opus of diligence and persistence. In the present A Trick Of The Tail show, the most difficult song to get right, in my opinion, would be White Mountain. The listening skills, nuances, timing, phrasing.....

PS: The band has been touring now recreating the A Trick Of The Tail tour. What about this show do you enjoy most as a player?

DM: Well, there has never been a Genesis show in which I could be bored, but in this one especially, I am kept so busy. Also, I think that this show is the strongest Genesis setlist of all; I think it's very well paced and has "a bit of everything". If it had Horizons before Supper's Ready, I think it would be truly perfect.
In terms of my playing parts, I get to do everything --- nice subtle dynamics with chordal pads fading in and out; piles of 16th-notes, unforgettable solo lines.......

PS: Is there any plan or desire for the band to tackle the Wind And Wuthering tour in the future?

DM: That could conceivably happen, but is not a matter of consideration at the moment.

PS: How, if at all, do the audiences for the A Trick Of The Tail shows differ from the Gabriel era shows?

DM: There is no difference that I have been aware of. I think it's fair to say that even though this is a "Collins era" show, it is still so much a part of that earlier phase that the fans don't draw the line and stay home as you would think they might.

PS: To what do you attribute the continued interest in the Genesis catalogue? As someone who has played a great portion of it, what about their body of work makes it endure?

DM: Well, the first thing that strikes me is that there is a differentiation to be made between older and newer repertoire. Calling All Stations, to be blunt, is not an album that is likely to endure.
With the older material that continues to endure, I think that there are a few elements that work together: the quality of material; the age of much of the present-day fan base when a lot of the older material was released; the generally more focused and grounded vibe in our society in decades past, such that albums were actually listened to in their entirety, and in front of a stereo......all these things might have combined to foster lasting relationships between the fans and the music.
Also, I think one critical question to ask about the endurance of the repertoire is. 'how has the fan base changed'? In other words, has the popularity of the music endured because the same people still listen to it, or has it won new fans along the way? I have no idea of the answer to that question.

PS: How does the upcoming David Myers Genesis On Piano album differ from the 2 David Myers Plays Genesis releases?

DM: It will be a double CD (when's the last time someone put one of those out?!). Disc 1 will be a selection of tracks from the first two CDs. My performance of these arrangements has evolved a lot since I first recorded them, and I have written alternate endings and made changes here and there.
I have grown substantially as a musician since I recorded the first disc in 2005, and I wanted to issue a more definitive version of things. One thing that has consistently grown is the depth and complexity of the arrangements. I am always challenging myself, trying to write outside my comfort zone, and doing things I've not done before, whether easy or difficult. Disc 2 will be all new arrangements. I will be publishing sheet music for all the tracks, as well.

PS: What do you feel are Tony Banks' greatest strengths as a composer?

DM: Like all great composers, he has something that is difficult to define, and that is what you might call "his own language" or "sound". That is of course, kind of vague when put in English, but obvious when observed in the music. He simply doesn't sound like anybody else.
If I had to break it down, or try to analyze it, the thing that most sets him apart is an amazing knack for harmonic surprise. The chords change in ways that you would never have expected, let alone thought of, and of course the results are phenomenal. That gift is a very rare sub-talent within the sphere of composition.
Further, something we could call harmonic frequency ........an offshoot of the first point, is how he is able to change harmony so *often* without it sounding too "busy" or disjointed. it just sounds like it was meant to be that way.
Oh, and then of course, he has that lyric-writing talent too. Oh well. :)

PS: Do you have any non-Musical Box projects on the horizon?

DM: We are looking at the idea of a Plays Genesis live show, where I would be primarily solo, but also joined by guests, with some solo piano but also a more orchestrated format. The exact content is in early discussions, but we are already poised to start booking shows in North America at least, starting September 2010. Apart from that, I've been invited to play a solo show at the Gouevia Art Rock Festival in Portugal in April.
After Genesis On Piano, I will be re-recording a disc's worth of original compositions that got lots of airtime on TV in the 90s, but that I feel have relevance and usefulness today. it is instrumental music for various ensembles and is a good entry point for me to get back into composition and publishing.
Recently, I was in touch with a high-profile musician who expressed interest in us meeting and discussing what kind of project we could do together in the near future. I don't want to say more at the moment, but it could amount to something quite substantial in the next year or so.
Also, I was recently included in a compilation CD project where rock keyboardists from around the globe are recruited to write a track or two each to correspond to a book from The Iliad. The project was created by Colossus in Finland and I am writing the opening track. Here is a link: click this!

PS: Please tell me 6 albums you never get tired of listening to.

Eagles - Greatest Hits 1971-1975
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
BT - Movement In Still Life
Frou Frou - Details
Brand X - Moroccan Roll
Ulrich Schnauss - Far Away Trains Passing By


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